SA government reaches ‘compromise’ on workers’ compensation reforms

State eyes a new bill that promises to be 'pro-workers and pro-businesses'

SA government reaches ‘compromise’ on workers’ compensation reforms

The South Australian government backed down its earlier workers' compensation reforms and introduced a new legislation to reach a compromise with unions and businesses.

Under the “Return to Work (Scheme Sustainability) Bill 2022,” SA workers would still be able to claim compensation for multiple injuries caused in the same incident.

However, the new bill would impose an increase on the threshold for workers to be considered "seriously injured" from 30% to 35% of whole-person impairment to protect the employers from hikes in premiums they pay to ReturnToWorkSA to cover potential work injury claims.

Additionally, the new bill would also give "seriously injured" workers the choice to claim a lump-sum payment rather than weekly payments from ReturnToWorkSA until they reach retirement.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said he was pleased to reach an agreement protecting workers and businesses, according to a report from ABC News.

"This is a sensible compromise which ensures injured workers will get the protection they need, while also ensuring businesses are not hit with significant increases in their Return to Work premiums," he posted on Twitter on 14 June.

Response of the unions and businesses

SA Unions Secretary Dale Beasley said that while the bill is "certainly not perfect," the new proposal is much better than the previous legislation, which he described as "astounding," ABC News reported.

"Hopefully the government, when we come up against challenges like these in the future, will open a dialogue far earlier and hopefully before legislation is put on the table," he said.

Meanwhile, Business SA chief executive Martin Haese said that the business community certainly does not hope to see an increase in ReturnToWorkSA premiums. Thus, a lesser premium for employers in this "extremely uncertain environment" is a better condition

"Of course, we do now call upon the Leader of the Opposition, David Speirs, to work collaboratively with the Premier to forge an outcome which works with business and preserves a sustainable cost base across all employers in South Australia," he said.

Criticism of the opposition

While the Liberal Party discussed the earlier legislation on 14 June as a way to offer their support of the bill, opposition leader David Speirs said the group could not vote on the new proposal because all they had seen was "one sheet of dot points."

"Business isn't clear what the liability will be going forward, whether that is actually affordable by business and but also by the ReturnToWorkSA scheme," he said. "What this probably needs is a serious investigation by an independent figure."

What happens to the bill?

Malinauskas said the government planned to introduce the new bill to parliament on 15 June with the hopes that the bill would pass both houses by the end of next week, ABC News reported.

"It is our hope now that a broad agreement has been reached between both unions and business, that we can now enjoy the support of the upper house and I would certainly hope that [Opposition Leader] David Speirs would come to the party and provide Liberal Party support for this legislation so this can be dealt with," he said.

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