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A Message from the Queensland Law Society
The Society is deeply concerned at reports that the Government may be giving consideration to a fundamental change to Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme by introducing a 5% permanent impairment threshold in order to access common law claims. We understand that the desired outcome is to reduce premiums.
We have requested a meeting with the Attorney-General to discuss our concerns, but we have been advised that he is unable to meet at present.
The Society opposes the change.
Introducing a threshold would change the scheme from a short-tail to a long-tail one. It would cause serious damage to a currently financially sustainable and fair scheme. It would disadvantage employers and employees alike.
It would be completely inconsistent with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Workers’ Compensation Scheme Report that states “The Committee recommends retention of the existing provisions relating to access to common law.”
Our workers’ compensation scheme enjoys the second lowest premiums in Australia – in fact we’re on par with Victoria when you consider they pay a higher employer excess. Our scheme has enjoyed the lowest average premium over the past decade.
Our common law claims numbers, claims rates and payments are decreasing.
The scheme is in excellent financial health – making a reported profit in 2011 with sufficient reserves to meet its liabilities, unlike comparable schemes in other states. Workcover’s 2012-13 Annual Report has not yet been tabled by the Attorney-General. We have no reason to believe that WorkCover’s financial position remains anything other than extremely positive.
Any move to change our workers’ compensation scheme is an issue of great concern to all Queenslanders.
Employers will see their premiums increase as the costs to the scheme escalate as has been the experience in other jurisdictions with long-tail schemes and limited common law access.
Queensland’s current 98% return to work rate will be under threat.
We can also expect it to act as a disincentive for Queensland to attract business as we will no longer have the nation’s best practice workers’ compensation scheme. Any short term benefits resulting from the introduction of thresholds will quickly be eroded by increased scheme expenditure.
We consider that imposing a threshold is a very blunt instrument to achieve an outcome of lowering premiums. From the experience in other jurisdictions, the advantage is likely to be short-lived. There are other options available to achieve this outcome without fundamentally altering the existing, very successful scheme.
We strongly encourage interested members to raise these issues with their local MP as a matter of urgency.