Workers' compensation

Safe Work Australia has several functions relating to workers’ compensation under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008, including to:

  • develop national policy relating to OHS and workers’ compensation
  • undertake research and conduct data analysis on workers’ compensation matters to develop proposals relating to:
    • harmonising workers’ compensation arrangements across the Commonwealth, States and Territories; and
    • national workers’ compensation arrangements for employers with workers in more than one of those jurisdictions
  • advise the Ministerial Council on matters relating to OHS or workers’ compensation.

Safe Work Australia is a policy development and advisory body for government and does not have a role in the management of individual workers’ compensation claims. Each state and territory has its own workers’ compensation scheme and the Commonwealth has three schemes – one for Commonwealth employees and authorities licensed to self-insure under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Commonwealth), one covering seafarers and one covering military personnel.

For information regarding individual workers’ compensation claims, or to discuss detailed information about a particular scheme, please contact the Workers’ Compensation Authority in your jurisdiction.

Safe Work Australia produces three annual publications that provide key information on workers’ compensation in Australia and New Zealand. They are:

  • Comparison of Workers' Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand, which aims to provide all stakeholders with information to assist them in understanding workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand,
  • Comparative Performance Monitoring Report, which provides trend analysis on the work health and safety and workers’ compensation schemes operating in Australia and New Zealand. Information in the report is designed to help gauge the success of different approaches undertaken by the various workers’ compensation and work health and safety authorities to reduce the incidence of work-related injury and disease, and the
  • Australian Workers’ Compensation statistics, which provide detailed workers’ compensation statistics, including trends over time and statistics on time lost from work and compensation paid. Data are presented by key variables such as industry, occupation, age group and sex. The reports also include information on the circumstances surrounding work-related injuries and diseases.

Workers’ compensation work program

Following an evaluation of the National Workers’ Compensation Action Plan 2010–2013 (Action Plan), Safe Work Australia Members agreed that Safe Work Australia’s future work program for workers’ compensation would concentrate on fewer projects with work to be completed within the year (where possible).

While a new multi-year Action Plan will not be developed the preamble to the previous Action Plan has been retained and used as the guiding principles when choosing topics and developing policy proposals. Any changes to workers’ compensation arrangements should aim to achieve a reasonable balance between the interests of employers and workers, while at the same time:

  • supporting effective and early return to work
  • providing fair compensation for work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths
  • reducing the overall social and economic costs to the community of work-related injuries, illness and fatalities, and
  • ensuring that employer costs are equitably distributed and contained within reasonable limits.

Three Temporary Advisory Groups (TAG) with representatives from the jurisdictions, unions and employer groups have been established to assist the SIG-Workers’ Compensation to progress work on its current work program.

Projects currently being undertaken by the SIG-Workers’ Compensation include:

Return to Work

National Return to Work Survey

In May 2013, the first National Return to Work Survey was undertaken, with information collected from over 4000 employees of both premium payers and self-insurers.

The purpose of the survey is to measure return to work outcomes of injured workers receiving workers’ compensation and to better understand the experience of those injured workers and the factors that may have an effect on their return to work. Click to view The results of the 2012-13 survey.

The second National Return to Work Survey was undertaken in April 2014.

Safe Work Australia is preparing a series of reports examining the relationship between certain variables and return to work outcomes from the 2013 and 2014 survey results. The National Return to Work Survey – The Role of the Employer and the Workplace Australia and New Zealand: 2013 is the first report in this series.

The third National Return to Work Survey will be conducted in April 2016.

Deemed Diseases

All Australian workers’ compensation jurisdictions provide compensation cover for injuries and diseases arising out of or in the course of employment. Most jurisdictions have enacted special provisions in their workers’ compensation legislation which deem  specified occupational diseases as being caused by specified work related activities unless the contrary is established.

Safe Work Australia commissioned a report to review the latest scientific research to inform policy consideration of an Australian list of scheduled diseases and guidance material.

The Deemed Diseases in Australia report was published on 31 August 2015 .

Permanent Impairment

In 2013 Safe Work Australia made recommendations to the Ministerial Council on nationally consistent arrangements for the assessment of permanent impairment.

Following the agreement of the majority of jurisdictions in early-2014, Safe Work Australia has commenced work to implement nationally consistent arrangements for the assessment of permanent impairment. The work will include the development of a national permanent impairment guide and a system for updating the national guide, and the development of a training package for medical practitioners wanting to become permanent impairment assessors.

National Workers' Compensation Action Plan 2010-2013

Safe Work Australia held a forum on workers’ compensation in March 2010 to gauge the appetite for reform and identify areas where progress could be made. Information gained at the forum was used to develop the National Workers’ Compensation Action Plan 2010–2013  (the Action Plan) which was endorsed by Safe Work Australia at its meeting in December 2010. 

Projects & Proposals developed by Safe Work Australia

Proposals developed by Safe Work Australia under the Action Plan and referred to Ministers include:

  • the development of a National Guide to the Assessment of Permanent Impairment aimed at creating nationally consistent arrangements for the assessment of permanent impairment
  • an investigation of nationally consistent approaches to the management of dust disease compensation claims
  • a review of the application of workers’ compensation legislation to ensure older workers are not disadvantaged; and which addressed the impact of the increase in the age pension qualifying age from 65 to 67 between 2017 and 2023, and
  • the development of the National Return to Work Survey.

The Productivity Commission inquiry into Disability Care and Support in 2011 recommended the establishment of two schemes: the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS). The NIIS aims to provide no-fault lifetime care and support for people with catastrophic injuries across four streams: motor vehicle, medical, workplace and general.

In March 2013, Safe Work Australia was requested to undertake the technical work to develop nationally consistent benchmarks for the provision of no-fault lifetime care and support of people who are catastrophically injured in workplace incidents. In March 2014, Minister Abetz referred the technical work completed by Safe Work Australia to the Treasury. The Treasury is working with states and territories to finalise the benchmarks for consideration by the Council of Australian Governments.

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