Accident Compensation Act changes to commence on 1 July 2010
A number of reforms to the Accident Compensation Act 1985, passed by the Victorian Parliament in March this year, will come into effect from 1 July 2010. These changes follow the first round of reforms which came into effect on 5 April 2010.
The changes affect both employers and workers and relate specifically to:
- Return to work
- Employer premiums
Return to work
The return to work provisions of the Act have been revised to reduce the focus on complex processes and paper compliance, and increase the emphasis on return to work outcomes.
New changes to return to work arrangements will commence on 1 July 2010 for workers and employers.
There are six key return to work obligations for employers:
Employers are required to provide suitable or pre-injury employment to an injured worker for 12 months. The obligation now commences at an earlier point to support earlier intervention
Plan return to work
Employers are required to plan the worker’s return to work. Planning return to work can include obtaining relevant information about the worker’s capacity for work, assessing and proposing suitable employment options and communicating with the worker about arrangements for their return to work.
Consult about the return to work of a worker
Employers are required to consult with the worker, the worker’s treating health practitioner and, if involved, the provider of occupational rehabilitation services to the worker.
Nominate a return to work coordinator
Employers must nominate a return to work coordinator who has an appropriate level of seniority and is competent to help the employer to meet their return to work obligations.
Employers with rateable remuneration of less than $2 million must nominate a return to work coordinator for the period that a worker has incapacity for work.
Make return to work information available
Employers must make return to work information available to their workers. This information can include the name and contact details of the employer’s Agent, the name and contact details of the return to work coordinator and employer obligations and how these are met.
Host employers to cooperate with labour hire employers
Host employers of workers that are injured while let on hire to co-operate with the labour hire employer on the worker’s return to work.
Employers with existing claims as at 1 July 2010 will have a nine month transitional period ending on 31 March 2011, where they can continue to comply with the previous return to work obligations. For all new claims from 1 July 2010, employers must comply with the new requirements.
Encouraging and securing compliance
The powers of return to work inspectors have been increased to better fulfil their role of investigating non-compliance, raising awareness and providing information and advice about meeting return to work obligations and requesting employers who breach their obligations to take measures to comply.
Inspectors will now have the ability to issue improvement notices to employers, similar to those issued by health and safety inspectors. To ensure transparency and accountability, inspector decisions will be subject to internal and administrative review.
WorkSafe will issue guidance and Compliance Codes (similar to Occupational Health and Safety Compliance Codes) to provide employers with practical guidance on how to comply with the law.
Injured workers also have responsibilities to support their return to work. These responsibilities aren’t new, but the reforms are designed to bring them more sharply into focus. Workers are required to make reasonable efforts to return to work in suitable employment and to actively participate in return to work planning, occupational rehabilitation and assessments of rehabilitation and future work prospects.
A staged approach has been introduced to give injured workers fairer warning of penalties that might be imposed for failing to comply with their return to work obligations.
To help everyone comply with the new return to work requirements, WorkSafe has developed a range of practical guidance material:
More information will be available in the return to work section of the WorkSafe website from 1 July 2010.
The key premium changes relate to the definitions of payroll used in calculating an employer’s premium. These have been more closely aligned with the Victorian payroll tax system and the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales.
Employers are encouraged to visit the Online Employer Services System to check whether the changes will impact on their payroll which needs to be declared to WorkSafe.
Changes to the law will also see employers have the right to request a review of an estimated claim cost where they consider it has been calculated based on incorrect data. To provide greater transparency in the setting of premiums, an independent expert body will conduct a review of premium setting every five years.
Employers with existing claims are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the new return to work requirements, and if you need assistance to transition please contact CGU.
For general information about the changes, please refer to the Accident Compensation Act frequently asked questions (FAQs), the summary of the changes, or visit the WorkSafe website.
A Guide to the Act is also available which has been developed to provide an overview of the changes.