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May communiqué

Given SIRA’s commitment to working from home wherever possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SIRA Board held its May meeting via Skype for Business. Board members discussed COVID-19, particularly in relation to workers compensation, and noted that SIRA is working with insurers, Department of Treasury officials and actuaries to understand, assess and model the potential impacts of a range of factors including changing patterns of work, fewer return to work options, variations in  insurer investment returns, wages and premiums and disruption to medical treatments and care options.

The Board noted the extensive work that has been done in responding to the immediate impacts of the pandemic. In particular, the Board discussed the measures put in place to support injured workers and employers and the significant policy adaptation work underway. The Board also positively noted the creation of a dedicated COVID-19 section on the SIRA website, and the frequent communication with stakeholders via SIRA bulletins.

The Board commended the Executive team for their continued efforts to protect the safety and wellbeing of SIRA colleagues while continuing to productively serve our community in the context of COVID-19. It has been a difficult period.

The SIRA Board had a valuable discussion with the new Workers Compensation Independent Review Officer (WIRO), Mr Simon Cohen. WIRO finds solutions for injured workers with complaints about insurers, manages the provision of legal advice and assistance for injured workers, and conducts procedural reviews of insurers’ work capacity decisions made prior to 1 January 2019. For decisions post 1 January 2019, WIRO funds approved lawyers to provide injured workers with advice. Board members were impressed with Mr Cohen’s stated determination to build WIRO’s reputation as a strong systems partner.

Board members considered reports on workers compensation matters including an update on the SIRA and icare 21-Point Action Plan.

Ms Nancy Milne OAM, Chair of the SIRA CTP Premium Committee, provided an update on the May Committee meeting and an overview of the Committee’s advice to the SIRA Board.  Board members received an update on the performance and monitoring of the CTP scheme, including customer experience and regulatory activities and the review of CTP premium parameters. Board Members were also provided with an analysis of early trends in emerging Award of Damages claims.

Dr Abby Bloom, Chair of the SIRA Audit and Risk Committee (ARC), provided an update on the May ARC Meeting which considered the SIRA Early Close Financial Statements. The ARC’s engagement in Early Close will enable SIRA to develop timely and high-quality year-end financial statements in line with legislative and other requirements for NSW public sector agencies.

Other matters considered at the May 2020 Board meeting included a quarterly report on key SIRA People and Culture statistics and preparation for a joint meeting with the icare Board.

Trevor Matthews

SIRA Board Chair