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Almost 6,000 NSW workers currently receiving compensation support could lose their benefits when new laws take effect later this year.

The changes to Section 39 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW), introduced in 2012, have placed limits of 260 weeks on compensation payments. However, some workers – with extremely severe injuries – may still be eligible.

Workers who want to check if they are able to access continued payments should contact a lawyer of their choosing.

If eligible, all legal costs will be covered through a Workers Compensation Independent Review Office (WIRO) funding grant.

Decisions on whether a worker will continue to receive payments will be made by either the applicable workers compensation insurer or, in some cases, the NSW Workers Compensation Commission.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Fiona Burns said it was crucial for all those presently receiving weekly payments – and who have received a letter explaining their benefits will stop at the end of the year – to inquire as they may actually be eligible to receive ongoing benefits.

The changes focus on workers compensation recipients who have reached 260 weeks of payment – where payments started on January 1, 2013 and the person was injured prior to October 1, 2012.

“As a result, the first workers to reach 260 weeks of entitlements face having their payments stopped on October 1 with the majority reaching 260 weeks by Boxing Day this year,” Ms Burns said.

“However some workers – if assessed with a 21 per cent Whole Person Impairment or higher – may actually be entitled to remain on benefits but they need to take action now to protect themselves.

“All workers involved need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible so that they don’t miss out once their 260 weeks is reached.”

Scenarios in which workers will lose their payments:

  • Mr X was employed to pick, handle and pack up 5,000 chicken eggs every day. This strenuous work has left him with permanent pain in his leg, buttock and back as well as a severe limp and incontinence. He is now virtually confined to his house and unable to enjoy any form of leisure activity. His payments will be cut off on Boxing Day as his impairment score is 12 per cent.
  • Ms X suffered a workplace incident after a 50kg beam came loose and knocked her off a ladder, causing her head and right shoulder to land on a metal platform while twisting her knee. The beam also struck her across the upper body. She has suffered severe injuries to her shoulder and knee and undergone four major surgeries and frequent physiotherapy. She is yet to be assessed for an impairment score, but the insurer is taking steps to have her weekly payments cut off on Boxing Day.

Until now, only about 500 – or 8 per cent – of the approximate 6,000 workers under threat have applied for a funding grant for legal advice so the majority of those affected could miss out.

For more information, visit the WIRO website.