​Amendments made to the Return to Work Act 1986 have changed the duration and the amount of payments for some compensation payments. Injured workers who are currently receiving workers' compensation will not be affected. These changes only apply to new compensation claims made after 1 July 2015.

First 26 weeks of payments

Under the Northern Territory Workers' Compensation Scheme, injured workers will receive the first 26 weeks of compensation payments at their normal weekly earnings. After 26 weeks, these payments will reduce to 75% of the injured worker's loss of earning capacity.

One of the amendments made is to clarify that the reduction of compensation payments to 75% occurs after a worker has received an aggregate of 26 weeks paid weekly compensations payment and not 26 weeks from when the worker was injured.

Changes to payments after 26 weeks limit on Normal Weekly Earnings

For the first 26 weeks of incapacity, weekly payments are paid at the worker's pre-injury level, as calculated in accordance with the definition of Normal Weekly Earnings (NWE).

After 26 weeks of incapacity, the workers' compensation entitlement is currently calculated at 75% of the worker’s loss of earning capacity (exceptions can apply for low income earners). Loss of earning capacity is the difference between a worker’s NWE and the amount earned or that could be earned in the most profitable employment available to the worker.

In future a worker whose NWE is greater than 250% of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE), will have their NWE deemed to be 250% of AWE. This cap on the calculation of an injured worker’s NWE only becomes relevant for very high income earners and where the worker has returned to some form of paid work or in some cases has a demonstrated capacity to return to paid work.

In all cases the maximum weekly benefit payable is 150% of AWE.

The effect of this change is that it will mean some individuals who are on very high incomes will not be able to return to paid work and also receive the maximum compensation amount. By limiting the amount of compensation payable to persons with a work capacity it provides greater incentive for the worker to pursue the most profitable employment and also provides an incentive for the employer to provide such employment.

Currently 250% of AWE is $3,543.00 per week for 2015.

Capping of weekly benefits to 260 weeks (5 years)

Injured workers who make a new compensation claim after 1 July 2015 are now limited in duration to 260 weeks of compensation payments. Payments for medical and other treatment costs will continue for an additional 12 months before ending.

Workers who have suffered a serious injury and assessed as having a permanent impairment of 15% or higher are excluded from this limit in duration. These workers will be entitled to compensation payments until pension age.

Improved benefit for older workers

The duration of compensation payments for workers aged 67 years or older has increased from 26 weeks to 104 weeks. With a number of older workers remaining in the workforce beyond the pension age, this change will provide these workers with increased financial protection if they are injured at work.