Workers’ rights to sue for compensation claims under common law are set to be restricted and employers will have access to applicants’ claim histories under an overhaul of workers compensation arrangements in Queensland.
Announcing the changes earlier this week, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says the new system will be the best in the nation.
“Our scheme will put the focus back on injury management, rehabilitation and return to work outcomes for injured workers and a competitive premium for employers,” he said.
Under the changes, workers will only be able to claim compensation through common law if their whole person impairment (WPI) arising from the injury is medically assessed as impairing five per cent of their whole person or higher. Those whose WPI falls below this level will still be eligible for compensation under a statutory formula.
The government will also introduce amendments aimed to crack down on fraudulent claims and allow employers access to the claims history of applicants, whilst the regulatory functions of Q-Comp will be merged into the Attorney-General’s department.
Master Builders Association (Queensland) executive director, Grant Galvin welcomed the changes, which he said would not impact workers with genuine claims but would relieve pressure on premiums, which he says would fall by as much as 13 per cent.
Over the last four years, Galvin says premiums in the construction industry have risen by an average of 23 per cent, with rises of more than 30 per cent in the case of trades such as bricklaying and concreting.
Bleijie says a five per cent WPI threshold is modest and compares favourably with thresholds of up to 30 per cent in other states.
But the changes have been slammed by unions, who say moves to limit common-law claims would sentence many workers to a life of poverty.
“Based on previous actuarial information, we know that more than 50 per cent of successful claims against negligent employers are for injuries with an impairment level of less than five per cent,” Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said in a statement, adding that even a small degree of impairment can have a devastating impact upon future employment prospects.
“Without an appropriate independently adjudicated payout, many of these workers and their families face a life of poverty.”