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Lawyers sound alarm on new workers comp bill


The state government’s revised changes to the workers compensation scheme could result in a “great rush” of workers seeking impairment assessments before next year in a bid to avoid retrospective “unfairness”, a national legal association warns.

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Premier Peter Malinauskas yesterday announced that his government would not proceed with a contentious bill aimed at closing a perceived loophole in the state’s Return to Work Act by ensuring workers’ injuries are treated individually rather than cumulatively.

Instead, a “compromise” bill will be introduced in parliament today following negotiations between the government and the union movement, which has been at loggerheads with Labor over the reforms.

Malinauskas said the new Return to Work (Scheme Sustainability) Bill 2022 would enable workers to be compensated for cumulative injuries while also protecting businesses from significant hikes in premiums, by increasing the threshold for workers to qualify as seriously injured.

Australian Lawyers Alliance SA president Sarah Vinall said the association was “relieved” the first Bill had been withdrawn but “we need to see the new Bill urgently so that we can fully assess the impacts of the amendments now being proposed”.

“These proposed amendments are major changes. We need to remember that these decisions impact the long-term medical and financial situation of people who have suffered serious injury doing their job,” she said in a statement.

“It is also critical that the legislation is drafted properly and is clear and unambiguous. If not, it has the potential to lead to expensive litigation and further uncertainty.”

Vinall said the association understands the amendments will have a “retrospective impact” and apply to workers who have their impairment assessment after January 1, 2023.

“In our experience, any reforms with a retrospective clause will generally cause unfairness on the affected individual workers,” she said.

“There are many workers who have already been injured and will be unable to have their assessment prior to this date due to their condition not being stable or being unable to get an appointment in time.

“If the legislation passes we are going to see a great rush of injured workers desperately trying to have their assessment done prior to the 1 January 2023 cut-off date. Many workers will miss out on having their assessment done by then and could be disadvantaged.

“The government’s priority must always be to ensure that anyone who is injured at work receives the support they need so they can look after themselves and their families.”

Malinauskas also announced on Tuesday that the State Government has committed to a review of the management of the scheme and a “broader review” of its functions by 2027.

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