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Workers compensation bulletin - issue 35

In this edition: Workers affected by section 39, improving dispute resolution in NSW, recommendations after post-implementation review, a recent Presidential decision, updated Fees Orders, and SIRA Executive appointments.

Workers affected by section 39 over the Christmas period

As you would be aware, a significant number of workers affected by the 260-week limit to weekly workers compensation payments (see section 39 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987), will cease entitlement to weekly payments during the holiday period from 26 December 2017 to early January 2018.

SIRA has arranged for the 13 10 50 Customer Experience number to be answered 24 hours a day, including weekends and public holidays.

In addition to the usual support services, SIRA will offer a free phone counselling and financial distress support service to workers and their families during the Christmas period. For more information, please see our website.

Improving workers compensation dispute resolution in NSW

Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Victor Dominello MP has opened a public consultation as part of a review to identify options for a better dispute resolution system for workers compensation insurance in NSW.

In its First review of the workers compensation scheme (2017), the NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice suggested improvements to the current approach to resolving disputes, including establishing a ‘one stop shop’ for dispute resolution (recommendation 14).

A discussion paper and summary document have been developed in consultation with the SIRA Board and these are available for your review and feedback on the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI) website.

The dispute resolution system review is being coordinated by the Central Policy Unit in DFSI. SIRA is represented on the reference group that has had input to the discussion paper and will help provide advice to the Government.

Submissions can be made via post, email or online form until 5.00pm 16 February 2018.

The discussion paper puts forward a number of options for consideration:

  • four options to reform the structure of the dispute resolution system
  • a number of options for preventing disputes
  • a number of options to improve dispute management processes.

The outcomes of public consultation will help determine which options will be recommended to Cabinet. Cabinet will make the final decision on which approach to adopt at that time.

Release of recommendations after post-implementation review

In August 2016, SIRA released revised Guidelines for claiming workers compensation (Guidelines) [PDF] after an extensive period of consultation. SIRA recently undertook a post-implementation review to evaluate the project, its implementation and outcomes.

Recommendations from the reviewing committee proposed that SIRA:

1. undertake further review of the full suite of current workers compensation guidelines and develop a claims administration manual

2. examine future consultation strategies to:

  • identify appropriate stakeholders for consultation
  • provide sufficient time for meaningful consultation
  • utilise dialogue rather than opinion
  • formally acknowledge and respond to stakeholders
  • engage workers in the consultation process.

3. revise project methodology for future projects to incorporate clear and robust evaluation strategies.

The review also resulted in a number of recommendations around content which will be addressed in the upcoming Guidelines review and development of the claims administration manual.

Issues raised outside the scope of the Guidelines review will be considered by relevant teams within SIRA.

A summary of the feedback is available on the SIRA website. SIRA will respond individually to stakeholders who provided written submissions.

Consultation for the Guidelines review and development of the claims administration manual will commence in early 2018.

Recent Presidential decision

On 15 December 2017, the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC) handed down it decision in The Camden Show Society Inc v Gajkowski.

Background

On 4 April 2014, Mr Gajkowski sustained a head injury resulting in severe brain damage while participating in a rodeo event as a bull rider. The issue before the WCC was whether he was a worker pursuant to clause 15 of Schedule 1 to the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998 (1998 Act).

In the initial Arbitrator decision, Mr Gajkowski was found to be a “worker.” An appeal of the Arbitrator’s decision was sought by the respondent.

Decision

One of the key issues in the appeal was whether Mr Gajkowski was a worker under clause 15 of Schedule 1 of the 1998 Act.

President Judge Keating found that Mr Gajkowski was not engaged in a legally enforceable agreement, was not engaged for fee or reward, and was not an entertainer in a public performance in a place of public entertainment to which the public is admitted on payment of a fee or charge.

Accordingly, Mr Gajkowski was found to not be a worker for the purposes of clause 15(1) of Schedule 1 to the 1998 Act. The Arbitrator’s determination of 31 May 2017 was revoked and substituted with an award for the respondents.

Updated Fees Orders now available

The latest 2017 and 2018 workers compensation Fees Orders are now available on the SIRA website.

On 1 December 2017, the latest Public hospital rates Fees Order and Ambulance services Fees Order were gazetted and came into effect for those services on or after 1 December 2017.

The 2018 medical and allied health Fees Orders were gazetted on 24 November 2017 and apply to services provided on or after 1 January 2018.

These include:

Section 61(2) of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 and Section 339 of the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998 provides that, in respect of medical and related treatment, an employer is not liable to pay in excess of an amount fixed by SIRA and published in the Gazette.

If you have any queries regarding Fees Orders, email us at contact@sira.nsw.gov.au.

SIRA Executive appointments

We are pleased to announce two appointments to the SIRA Executive team.

Carmel Donnelly

Carmel Donnelly has been formally appointed to the role of  SIRA Chief Executive. The appointment has been made with the full support of the SIRA Board and Minister Dominello.

Carmel has been Acting Chief Executive since March, leading a number of significant initiatives during this time including reforms to workers compensation, home building compensation, and most recently, the landmark changes to the motor accidents CTP insurance scheme launched on 1 December.

Dr Rhys Bollen

Dr Rhys Bollen has also been appointed as Executive Director, Workers and Home Building Compensation Regulation at SIRA.

Acting in the role since March this year, Rhys has helped lead our work in home building compensation reform, as well as the continued improvement of regulation of the NSW workers compensation system.