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COVID impacting NSW return-to-work progress

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NSW state insurer icare says the adverse impact of the coronavirus outbreak on return-to-work rates is likely to continue over the coming months.

“The impact of COVID-19 on return-to-work rates is being felt differently across industries,” it says in its latest update published last week.

“The manufacturing industry, for example, appears to be remaining stable, while industries including accommodation, cafes and restaurants, retail trade, culture and recreational services have been experiencing declining return-to-work rates since the pandemic began in March.”

icare is shifting the way it reports the outcomes, moving to data based on work status codes rather than a cessation of benefits measure, following pressure from the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA).

In the latest update it reports data using both methods and says it will work with actuarial experts to investigate how they can be improved to provide a more accurate picture.

The 26-week return-to-work rate based on the status code measure was 80.6% in June, compared to 80.1% in March, and a deterioration from 88.8% in July 2018.

Using the cessation of benefits measure, the rate was 80.8% in June, down from 81.7% in March and compared with 81.9% in July two years ago and 85.6% at the start of that year.

SIRA Chairman Carmel Donnelly has warned that reliance on measures based on ending weekly benefits can create “perverse outcomes” rather than a focus on early co-ordinated support that will deliver a return-to-work.