How will the new amendments affect claims for injuries that occur after 1 July 2015?

For most claims there will be no change. The changes that will impact on some claimants will be:

  • Workers' compensation payments will be limited in duration to 260 weeks. Payments for medical and other treatment costs will continue for an additional 12 months before ending.
  • There is an increased benefit for dependents of workers who have fatal injuries.
  • Heart attacks and strokes will only be compensated if caused by work.

Will the new changes impact on claims for injuries prior to 1 July 2015?

No. 

What happens after I have been on compensation for more than 260 weeks (5 years)?

Workers who make a compensation claim for an injury that occurs after 1 July 2015 are now limited in duration to 260 weeks of weekly compensation payments. Payments for medical and other treatment costs will continue for an additional 12 months after weekly compensation has ceased.

This duration limit does not apply to workers who are assessed as having a permanent impairment of 15% or higher. These workers may potentially be entitled to weekly compensation payments until pension age. Other benefits, such as medical treatment costs will potentially apply for life.

Is compensation for high income earners capped?

Not for the first 26 weeks. However after 26 weeks, the maximum weekly benefit payable is 150% of the Average Weekly Earnings (AWE)1.

For claims for injuries after 1 July 2015, a worker whose Normal Weekly Earnings (NWE) is greater than 250% of the AWE, will have their NWE deemed to be 250% of the AWE. This cap on the calculation of an injured workers 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.

The effect of this change will mean some individuals who are on very high incomes will not be able to return to work and also receive the maximum compensation amount. Limiting the amount of compensation payable to a person with capacity to work will provide greater incentive for the worker to pursue the most profitable employment option and provides an incentive for the employer to provide these employment options.

Currently 250% of AWE is $3,543 per week for 2015.

1 The AWE figure is determined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and is the level of average earnings in the Northern Territory. The figure is used to calculate certain workers' compensation benefits and is updated annually.

Am I covered for stroke and heart attack occurring at work?

You can still lodge a claim for assessment, however claims for strokes and heart attacks occurring after 1 July 2015 will only be accepted if it is established that a person's employment is the real, proximate or effective cause of the disease.

What are the weekly benefit entitlements for older workers?

Claims for injuries after 1 July 2015 will have an increased duration of compensation payments for workers aged 67 years or older. The entitlement will increase from 26 weeks to 104 weeks. With the 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.

Despite the limitation on weekly benefits, older workers receive the same entitlement for medical and other benefits as other workers. For example, if weekly compensation ends after 104 weeks because of age, compensation for medical and other expenses will potentially continue for another four years. For injured workers who are assessed as having a permanent impairment of 15% or higher, compensation for medical treatment costs may continue for life.

What is the new definition of worker?

The definition of worker has been aligned with the PAYG definition used by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This change will make it easier for employers and workers to identify who is covered for workers' compensation.

Under the change, a worker is:

'An individual who performs work or a service under contract and is in relation to the contract, an employee for the purpose of assessment for PAYG withholding under the 'Tax Administration Act 1953 (Cth)', Schedule 1, Parts 2-5.'

This applies to a person for whom PAYG tax instalments are required to be withheld by their employer (even if they are not being withheld).

The change in definition will have no impact for the majority of individuals.

Guidelines and online tools

If you need further assistance, the ATO website has guidelines and online tools to assist you to determine an individual's employee / contractor status.