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COVID changes flagged for NSW workers’ comp

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A NSW workers’ compensation reform process is examining changes that may be required in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as evolving issues affect injured people, insurers and employers.

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) says COVID-19 has created unprecedented community, workplace and economic impacts and challenges.

“To date, SIRA has overseen the implementation of numerous measures to address the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in its personal injury schemes,” it says. “However, as the pandemic evolves, more measures may be needed to manage the impacts of COVID-19 on the scheme and outcomes for customers.”

COVID issues are being examined as part of a consultation that includes feedback on workers’ compensation recommendations from the McDougall Review and the NSW Parliament Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

The consultation is looking at potential reforms around the whole person impairment threshold test for benefits and the definition of suitable employment. It is also considering ideas to better align workers’ compensation and compulsory third party schemes.

SIRA says as a result of COVID-19 some non-urgent medical treatments have been unavailable or delayed for prolonged periods, with some workers at risk of losing access to treatment under scheme time limits.

The pandemic has further implications for claims costs, reduced ability to provide return-to work and alternative duties and wages.

“Issues are also arising for some insurers and employers from workers having adverse reactions to vaccinations, mandated vaccinations, or as a result of some workers being vaccinated and others not,” the discussion paper says. “These issues will impact claims costs and have a flow through effect to employer premiums.”

The paper asks whether COVID-related changes made last year should require a statutory review, or limits, and seeks input on compensation period issues in cases where there have been medical delays due to COVID-19 and other circumstances beyond a person’s control.

Submissions close on November 4. More details are available here.