Queensland Law Society

Employers to bear burden of WorkCover reforms

Date 14 Oct 2013
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone 07 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society has warned proposed changes to the state’s workers’ compensation scheme risk its financial viability and would increase costs to employers.

CEO Noela L’Estrange said instead of introducing an impairment threshold for employees to sue their employer for negligence, WorkCover’s annual profit could be used to reduce premiums.

“WorkCover’s 2012-13 annual report is yet to be published, however their 2011-12 report showed an operating result of nearly $200 million, after tax,” Ms L’Estrange said.

"The 2012-2013 results are, we understand, likely to be even more favourable and this profit could be used to achieve significant premium savings.

“In conjunction with other modest measures, this would easily make premiums for Queensland employers the lowest in the nation.

“It’s not rocket science – if there are fewer payouts, WorkCover makes more profit, as recent results show.

“If employers are financially incentivised to improve systems, reduce the numbers of injuries and promote good return to work outcomes by timely premium reductions, everyone benefits.

“This gives employers the power to positively influence premium outcomes.

“Business groups are urging the government to introduce a 5% impairment threshold that would rule out more than 50% of claims by injured employees. 

“Other states that have made such moves have seen disputes increase exponentially and scheme costs rise significantly resulting in employers paying higher premiums. 

“The use of thresholds is a blunt instrument that would destroy Queensland’s record of having the best workers’ compensation scheme in the nation.

“Queensland has enjoyed the nation's lowest average workers compensation premium over the past decade.

“The current WorkCover premium is below the average premium rate of the last 16 years and is expected to be in line with 2005-06 rates this year. 

”Currently there are disputes in only 3.1% of workers’ compensation claims, which is well below the Australian average, and 81.6% of disputes are settled within three months, a rate almost twice that of Victoria and New South Wales.

“Queensland also boasts a 98% return to work rate.

“The proposed changes risk our great track record, the envy of the nation, and intensify the risk of further cost imposts on business.

“It would be a significant threat to a currently healthy scheme.”