SIRA bulletin - Issue 6

Presumption for COVID-19 affected workers

Recent amendments to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 introduced a presumption that workers in prescribed employment who contract COVID-19 contracted the virus in the course of their employment.

The presumption makes it easier for workers who contract COVID-19 to receive workers compensation entitlements to support their recovery.

The amendments were introduced by the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures – Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 and will be supported by Regulation.

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is working with the NSW Government and stakeholders to prepare the supporting Regulation and implement the changes.

SIRA will provide further information once the Regulation is made.

Support for small business

As COVID-19 restrictions are easing across NSW and businesses resume their operations, SIRA is providing a free Recovery Advisory Service for employers to help them adapt to the new working environment and manage their workers compensation obligations.

The Recovery Advisory Service can provide advice on:

  • the impacts of government stimulus packages (for example, JobKeeper) on workers compensation premiums
  • supporting workers who are recovering from an injury or illness to return to the workplace
  • how to get the most out of working with your workers compensation insurer, for example, changes to staffing or the way a business operates can affect the amount paid in premiums
  • assistance available to employers through SIRA funded programs, including programs that can help with the provision of equipment, workplace modifications and/or training, and financial incentives for helping other workers to recover at work.

The Recovery Advisory Service can provide advice over the phone, online or, in some cases, can visit your workplace. If you have a question for the Recovery Advisory Service, please complete the webform or call us on 13 10 50.

SIRA also invites small businesses to participate in the NSW Small Business COVID-19 Information webinar next week at 6pm Thursday, 25 June 2020. The SIRA team will be joining the NSW Small Business Commission, the NSW Office of Industrial Relations and icare to provide information on government support available to small business owners who have been affected by COVID-19. Registrations for the webinar are essential.

The impact of JobKeeper on workers compensation premiums

SIRA has introduced changes to the Workers Compensation Market Practice and Premiums Guidelines to minimise the impact of JobKeeper payments on workers compensation premiums.

In NSW, workers compensation premiums are based on a range of factors, including the amount of wages paid by an employer to their workers.

The changes make it clear that payments made to workers under their ordinary employment arrangements are wages for premium purposes; however, any additional government-subsidised payments are excluded when calculating premiums.

This measure will ensure that employer premiums are not inflated by government programs designed to support workers and employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can view the updated Workers Compensation Market Practice and Premiums Guidelines and examples of the impact of JobKeeper payments on premiums on the SIRA website.

New COVID-19 workers compensation Standard of practice

Following a public consultation process, SIRA has amended its workers compensation Standards of practice to include a new Standard on the management of claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Standard 32 is designed to:

  • clarify expectations regarding insurer decision making and determination of weekly payment entitlements to promote transparency and consistency, and provide certainty for impacted workers
  • reduce barriers and ensure workers are fully informed of supports and options available to them
  • support workers through their recovery and return to work

The amended Standards of practice will commence on 26 June 2020. Standard 32 will be in effect for 12 months unless SIRA amends, revokes, or replaces the Standard earlier.

You can view the updated Standards of practice: expectations for insurer claims administration and conduct and submissions summary from the public consultation on the SIRA website.

SIRA remains committed to ongoing adaptations to respond to the changing COVID-19 situation and its impacts. SIRA will continue to closely monitor the management of claims and will further refine this Standard if appropriate.

Review of health practitioner licences

SIRA has strengthened its monitoring of health practitioners in the personal injury schemes through a new agreement which allows SIRA to access the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) registration database.

The provision of this exchange makes it easier for SIRA to confirm that health practitioners have the appropriate professional qualifications and registrations to deliver treatment and services in the schemes.

SIRA is in the process of contacting practitioners whose registration status has changed and updating its approved list of allied health treatment providers.

SIRA will continue to refer practitioners who are delivering treatment, services, or care contrary to their registration status to the relevant governing body.

Customer experience survey

SIRA is conducting a survey to better understand the customer experience and recovery of people claiming workers compensation and compulsory third party (CTP) insurance.

SIRA has engaged the Social Research Centre to conduct this research. The Social Research Centre will invite 1500 claimants to participate in a survey that focuses on their experiences claiming benefits in the schemes and their treatment and recovery.

The research will be used to monitor the performance of insurers and improve the outcomes for people in the workers compensation and CTP schemes.

You can find more information about the survey on the SIRA and Social Research Centre’s websites.

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