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Workers compensation bulletin - issue 58

In this edition: Gig economy talks continue, new presumptive workers compensation law for firefighters commences in NSW, all employers need a return to work program, monthly report available and workplace safety award winners.

Gig economy talks continue

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is continuing to assess future workforce protection requirements through its Gig Economy Stakeholder Reference Group.

The 'gig economy', where people obtain work through online platforms, is part of the rapidly growing collaborative economy.

Established by SIRA in early 2018, the group brings representatives from gig economy businesses, worker advocacy groups, academics and government together quarterly to discuss changing workforce trends and worker protection issues.

The group enables representatives to collaborate and share perspectives on the gig economy. It also provides SIRA with valuable insights into the experience of gig economy workers and potential regulatory options for the future.

Other NSW Government regulators - from NSW Industrial Relations, SafeWork NSW, Point to Point Transport Commission, Revenue NSW and the Australian Tax Office - attended the latest meeting in November which covered issues in the community and the future of good regulation.

Next year, SIRA will be seeking opportunities to improve data collection to better inform responses to the impacts of change.

If you'd like to find out more or become involved in the Gig Economy Stakeholder Reference Group, email wcrstakeholderengagement@sira.nsw.gov.au

New presumptive workers compensation law for firefighters commences in NSW

A new law which allows firefighters who develop cancer to claim workers compensation entitlements more easily, came into force in NSW on 7 December.

The new law enables eligible firefighters diagnosed with one of 12 specified primary cancers on or after 27 September 2018, who also meet certain employment periods of service to automatically be presumed to have acquired cancer because of their firefighting work.

This means that firefighters who were diagnosed with one of the specified primary cancers from that date, can now make a claim for workers compensation with the benefit of the presumption.

Firefighters who had a previous workers compensation claim denied because they were unable to prove the link between the cancer and their employment, can now make a new claim and receive the presumption.

The presumptive legislation does not change existing workers compensation entitlements. Firefighters can still make a claim for workers compensation if they have contracted a disease, including cancer.

Learn more about the new firefighters workers compensation presumption law.

All employers need a return to work program

SIRA is reminding NSW employers to have an up-to-date return to work program to respond to their employees sustaining a work-related injury or illness.

Employers have until 31 May 2019 to put their programs in place or update them in line with SIRA's latest return to work guidelines.

Most small businesses can use SIRA's return to work program template to document their strategy to help workers recover at work.

Employers with a base tariff premium of more than $50,000 (category 1 employers) must have a return to work coordinator who will develop and implement a return to work program in consultation with workers and unions.

The following resources can be used to help employers develop a return to work program:

SafeWork NSW is conducting return to work program workshops in early 2019 to help employers prepare return to work programs.

SIRA is also developing an online training course to replace a compulsory two-day course for return to work coordinators in 2019.

Supported return to work can help a business by:

  • maintaining an experienced workers' skills and knowledge
  • reducing the cost of training a replacement worker
  • maintaining good employer-employee relationships
  • demonstrating that all workers are valued employees
  • reducing the length of time employees are away from work
  • avoiding the cost of hiring new staff.

Watch our return to work videos which feature successful return to work programs and inspiring worker stories to encourage supported recovery at work.

For more information about return to work programs, visit the SIRA website or call us on 13 10 50 (Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 5 pm).

Monthly report available

The August edition of the workers compensation monthly report is now available on the SIRA website.

The report includes information about claims, return to work rates, payments and insurance affordability.

SIRA produces the monthly reports to improve stakeholders' access to information and encourage innovation and services that may improve outcomes for workers and employers.

The report is accompanied by data tables and explanatory information.

Workplace safety award winners

Eight businesses and individuals won awards for outstanding achievements in workplace health and safety and recovery at work at the 2018 SafeWork NSW Awards.

The winners were among 34 finalists from a range of industries, who were recognised for their safety innovations and inspirational recovery at work stories.

The 15th annual awards attracted 160 applications across six categories from around NSW, between Ballina in the north, Merimbula in the south and Barham in the south-west. Representatives from SafeWork NSW and SIRA carefully judged all entries.

SIRA congratulates and commends not only the winners and finalists but all award entrants for their innovation and commitment to work health and safety and recovery at work initiatives.

Here are some of the award highlights...

Recovery at Work Achievement Award for Injured Workers - Sgt Luke Warburton

Sgt Luke Warburton suffered life-threatening injuries and complications after being shot while responding to a hostage situation.

In the 10 months he was away from work, Sgt Warburton maintained strong connections with his workplace and colleagues. He successfully returned to his role, supervising training at the Dog Squad - a large specialist command - after a period of intensive physical and psychological rehabilitation.  

Excellence in Recovery at Work for Business category - The University of Sydney

The University of Sydney, was recognised for implementing a recovery at work program that achieved a remarkable reduction in days lost to illness and injury.

Five years ago, the university replaced its outdated recovery at work model that had seen ill and injured workers remain at home until they were fully fit to resume their pre-injury duties.

By encouraging a proactive and positive approach to re-engagement in the workplace, the University of Sydney reduced the annual days lost to injury or illness across its workforce of 9500, from more than 4,500 to 280 days.

High commendations in the award category went to Ballina Shire Council and Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

For more information and the full list of winners, visit the SafeWork NSW Awards website.