Raising the BARR – Week ending 8 September 2017

Where Will our Injured Workers End Up and Who Will Pay?

In the coming months, in NSW, there will be more than 4500 injured workers who will cease to be covered by the workers compensation scheme. This is because the Government changed the rules in 2012 – prior to this workers were covered until they got back to work. These injured workers are not back to normal, not back to work, not pain free or injury free – they are simply going to pass the 5 year limit of support that the Government has given them. In many cases, these injured workers are now receiving payments that are less than half of their normal pay; a rate that is often just a little more than an unemployment benefit. There is no sane person on the planet that would be willing to go without a much higher wage if they could actually work.

The workers compensation scheme is funded by the employers that all pay into it. Those businesses that have more injuries in the workplace pay more. Those businesses that have fewer injuries in the workplace pay less. The basic idea is that the workers compensation scheme, not the tax-payer, pays for the injured workers.

So what will happen to the 4500+ injured workers once they are kicked off the workers compensation scheme? Well, in the first instance, they will be forced across to Centrelink or the National Disability Scheme. This is bad for both the injured person and the tax-payer. For medical treatment they will be forced across to the Medicare Scheme and/or their Private Medical Fund (if they can still afford one). This is bad for both the injured person and the tax-payer. Already relying heavily on family and friends for support, the likely reality is that this will increase.

I want to emphasise, I want to double and triple emphasise, that I intend no offence or blame on the injured persons. These people, many with incredibly painful physical injuries, and mental health injuries, are innocent victims in the cruel workers compensation laws put into place in 2012. These people don’t want to be a burden on their workplace, their work mates, their families and friends or the broader community. But no-one has a time machine to go back and prevent the injury, so we are where we are. Our injured people, many now with permanent disabilities, deserve our full compassion, and they certainly have mine.

But here’s the rub, the ongoing needs of the injured workers were meant to be met by, and should be met by, the workers compensation scheme, not the tax-payer. The Government changes to workers compensation gives a free-ride to the companies that cause the injuries, give a cruel-ride to the injured workers and give a costly-ride to the tax payers. The Government would like nothing more than for us to blame the injured and helpless. My column this week is not intended to lay any blame at the feet of the injured; but it is intended to lay 100% blame at the feet of the Government.