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Changes to workers compensation and motor accident laws

The COVID-19 Legislative Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 was passed by NSW Parliament on Tuesday 24 March 2020. This Act includes changes to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 and the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 to relieve pressure on general practitioners and the overall health system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislative changes create Regulation and guideline making powers to provide a degree of flexibility for certification of an injured person’s ability to work. 

We will let you know once these changes are in place.

After a medical practitioner has assessed the full health needs of an injured person and provided an initial certificate of fitness or certificate of capacity, it is intended that second and subsequent certificates will be able to be provided by a treating allied health professional. This will need to be in accordance with the Workers Compensation Regulation 2016 for workers compensation or the Motor Accidents Guidelines for motor accident injury compensation. Prior to the amendments, only a medical practitioner could provide this certification.

The changes will also make it easier for injured workers and road users who cannot work due to their injuries continue to receive their weekly benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, without needing to visit their treating doctor.

We are working to prepare the supporting regulation for the Minister and amendment to the Motor Accidents Guidelines issued by SIRA. Further information will be provided as soon as the changes come into effect.

In the meantime, insurers should continue to accept certificates from medical practitioners, as per the established practice.

Dispute Resolution Services

SIRA Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) is rapidly adapting the way its services operate to protect the wellbeing of injured people, stakeholders and our decision makers.

For claims and merit review disputes, we have ceased all in-person hearings. Decision makers will determine how a matter should proceed and whether matters should be adjourned, or proceed to be determined on the papers, via teleconferencing or video conferencing.

For medical disputes, SIRA DRS has implemented pre-appointment telephone screening to confirm whether it is appropriate and safe for a person to attend a scheduled medical assessment. The health and wellbeing of all those involved in a medical assessment is our primary concern. Where appropriate, medical assessors and review panel members will avoid in-person contact by assessing matters based on the papers or via video conference. Where circumstances allow, DRS will determine whether an in-person assessment should proceed. DRS has asked medical decision makers to follow the advice of the Australian Government Department of Health and NSW Health in relation to the prevention of the possible spread of COVID-19.

DRS is requesting that all parties to a dispute in the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 scheme file material electronically via our email address drsenquiries@sira.nsw.gov.au. This includes lodgement of applications, replies, submissions and all other correspondence. Matters lodged in the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 scheme will continue to be lodged electronically.

What else we’ve been doing

In case you missed it, here are other updates from SIRA as we respond to the impact of COVID-19 on the workers compensation and CTP insurance schemes.

Telehealth services

We recognise that COVID-19 may impact an injured person’s ability to attend face-to-face medical appointments.

So that we can minimise social contact and the demand on our health system, we have introduced new arrangements for telehealth services so that consultations between injured people and providers can occur over the telephone.

Insurers will need to consider the appropriateness of this service on a case-by-case basis and provide pre-approval for the consultation to take place. Insurers should also consider the use of video consultations at this time.

Our Fees Order

We have updated the following Fees Orders to include telehealth services:

SIRA funded programs

We appreciate that injured people and employers may need additional support to manage recovery at work.

The following programs can assist:

For motor accidents and workers compensation

  • JobCover Placement Program (JCPP) – For employers who have employed an injured person using the JCPP and need to scale back or close their workplaces temporarily due to the impact of COVID-19, the duration of the JCPP for the worker will be increased to accommodate that period of change.
  • Recover at Work Assist Program - If an employer is using this program for an injured person on a recovery at work plan and scales back or closes due to the impact of COVID-19, the period of the program remaining can be resumed, once the period of changed business operations is over and the person returns to work on their upgraded plan.
  • Transition to Work can also be used to address a financial barrier preventing injured people accepting an offer of employment.

For workers compensation

  • Training program – workers who may have to suspend their return to work for an extended period due to COVID-19 may wish to consider if training could be used to retain their motivation and prevent disengagement. Workers that are currently undertaking face-to-face training funded by SIRA may also receive support to access equipment to study online if their training institution requires this.
  • Equipment program - a worker who is receiving workers compensation payments and is required to work from home to manage social distancing requirements may be eligible for support through our equipment program.
  • Work trial - workers who may have to suspend their recovery at work, due to their pre-injury employer scaling back/closing down operations due to the impact of COVID-19 and are no longer able to provide suitable work for this period can access a work trial with a host employer.

Keep updated

More information about these measures is available on our website.

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