'Injured workers' bill raises concerns for employers

Bill would have 'significant implications,' legal experts say

'Injured workers' bill raises concerns for employers

The government recently introduced a bill before the South Australian parliament that would affect injured workers, but concerns have been raised that it did not go through rigorous consultation with concerned groups.

According to media reports, the “Return to Work (Permanent Impairment Assessment) Amendment Bill 2022” would enable plaintiffs to receive compensation for a subsequent injury that resulted from the original work injury. It would also change the permanent impairment assessment process to lessen the circumstances where certain injuries could be combined.

Currently, the 2014 law covering permanent impairment assessment for workers provides that individual injuries would be combined “if they arise from ‘the same injury or cause’ or the ‘same trauma’,” Joe Parisi, a lawyer from Gilchrist Connell, said in a media release.

Parisi explained that the decision being followed now from the Supreme Court of SA states that work impairments could be combined if: (1) the worker suffers two or more injuries arising from the same incident; or (2) the impairments arise from an injury and a consequential injury (for example, an impairment from a right knee injury sustained in a fall would be combined with an impairment from a left knee injury caused by ‘overuse’ due to the right knee injury).

“The proposed amendments will make it much more difficult for workers to reach the [required] impairment threshold to be treated as a seriously injured worker,” Parisi said.

“The changes will also, in many cases, reduce lump sum entitlements for injured workers,” Parisi added.

The Law Society of SA has also expressed its concern about the bill, saying that it “will have a fundamental impact on the eligibility of injured workers to receive compensation.” It further commented on the government’s failure to have a “robust” consultation with various groups.

“In the Society’s view, it is critical that significant pieces of legislation such as this are subject to robust consultation, so that there can be a proper analysis on likely ramifications, an examination of the merits of various provisions, consideration of the effect of the proposed changes on the injured whose claims are presently underway, identification of any measures which may have unintended consequences or undermine important legal principles, and the need to ensure our workers compensation scheme adequately compensates injured workers,” it said.

“Media reports suggest that the intention of the bill is to address a court determination that enables plaintiffs to receive compensation for a subsequent injury that resulted from the original work injury. Introducing legislation to mitigate the effect of this judgment would have a significant impact on a number of injured workers, and therefore should be subject to proper scrutiny before being introduced to Parliament,” the Law Society of SA’s President Justin Stewart-Rattray said.

Meanwhile, the bill has been met with opposition from unions and advocacy groups.

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