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Workers compensation regulation bulletin - Issue 90

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is carefully monitoring the Commonwealth and State Governments’ announcements and health advice relating to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please read below for an important update in relation to:

Access to telehealth

Due to the potential for COVID-19 to impact a worker’s ability to access and providers’ ability to deliver face to face treatment services, SIRA is currently updating the relevant Fees Orders to expand telehealth services. This includes the delivery of consultations via telephone in addition to the already occurring video consultations. Consultations would be inclusive of any electronic communication to support the delivery of the treatment service. New payment classification codes for telehealth services have also been applied in the allied health Fees Orders.

The Fees Orders being re-gazetted are as follows:

  • Workers Compensation (Medical Practitioner Fees) Order 2020 No.2
  • Workers Compensation (Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Osteopathy Fees) Order 2020 No.2
  • Workers Compensation (Psychology and Counselling Fees) Order 2020 No.2
  • Workers Compensation (Accredited Exercise Physiology Fees) Order 2020 No.2
  • Workers Compensation (Independent Consultant Fees) Order 2020 No.2

Telehealth services require pre-approval from the insurer and must be consented to by all parties – the worker, practitioner and insurer.

Practitioners must consider the appropriateness of this mode of service delivery for each worker on a case-by-case basis. Practitioners are responsible for delivering telehealth services in accordance with the principles of professional conduct and the relevant professional and practice guidelines to ensure that all care is taken to ensure the safety, appropriateness and effectiveness of the service.

The amended Fees Orders will be published in the Government Gazette Friday, 20 March 2020 and take effect from this date. The updated Fees Orders will be available on the SIRA website shortly after the publication date.

The updated SIRA Payment Classification file will be loaded into the Data Exchange portal in CSV format, available for download prior to Friday, 20 March 2020. The file will include updated payment classification codes for telehealth services.

New payment classification codes for telehealth services have been applied in the allied health Fees Orders.

For any enquiries please contact contact@sira.nsw.gov.au

Certificates of capacity

Insurers are reminded the legislation allows certificates of capacity to be issued for periods greater than 28 days. If the person giving the certificate states the special reasons for the longer period and the insurer is satisfied that, for the special reasons stated, the certificate should be accepted, then a certificate may cover a period greater than 28 days (see section 44B of the Workers Compensation Act 1987). Longer certificates reduce the risk for workers and GPs potentially being exposed to coronavirus. Insurers are encouraged to proactively discuss longer certificates with workers and providers where appropriate.

Supporting workers and employers through SIRA funded programs

SIRA recognises that at this time workers and employers may need additional support to manage recovery at work. SIRA’s programs can assist:
Equipment program

  • a worker who is receiving workers compensation payments and is required to work from home to manage social distancing requirements, may be able to be supported by SIRA’s equipment program

Training program

  • workers who are currently undertaking face to face training funded by SIRA, may need support to access equipment to study online if their training institution requires this.
  • workers who may have to suspend their return to work for an extended period due to their workplace scaling back/closing down, may wish to consider if training could be used during this period to retain their motivation and prevent disengagement. For more information see SIRA’s training program materials

JobCover Placement Program

  • For employers who have employed workers using the JobCover Placement program (JCPP) but need to scale back/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.
  • Employers should keep a record of the period of changed operations to support their claim for the incentive payments as their business re-opens along with the usual proof of payment of wages to the worker.

Recover at work assist for small business

  • SIRA will extend the timeframe of this pilot program to 31 December 2020.
  • If a small business using the Recover at work assist program for a worker on a recovery at work plan scales back/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 worker returns to work on their upgrading plan.

Premium impacts of COVID-19

SIRA is working with insurers to mitigate the potential premium impacts of workers compensation claims arising from COVID-19. SIRA will shortly seek feedback from insurers on proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Market Practice and Premium Guidelines that will prevent costs associated with COVID-19 claims impacting individual employer premiums. SIRA is working with insurers to ensure that consideration of the potential impacts of COVID-19 are incorporated into insurer premium rate filings for 2020-21.

General comment for employers

Workers who are not able to return to or recover at work due to the impact of COVID 19 on their workplace should be encouraged to keep active at home to retain their fitness and health.  Workers may need additional assistance to manage any concerns about returning to work during this time.

SIRA contact for employers

SIRA acknowledges that the outbreak of COVID-19 is evolving rapidly and the risk and impact experienced by businesses will not be the same across NSW. Employers may face increased challenges supporting workers with work-related injury or illness to recover at work and to optimally undertake their workers compensation obligations.

SIRA is taking steps to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to enable employers’ access to necessary information and services to support them. SIRA has enhanced our capacity to receive enquiries and encourage employers who have questions about supporting their injured workers during this time, particularly around the ongoing provision of suitable work to call 13 10 50.

Further information

SafeWork Australia have published information that is available on their website which provides advice for PCBUs. This can be accessed here.

SafeWork NSW have also published advice for NSW workplaces which is available here