Under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008, we have several functions when it comes to workers’ compensation, including developing national policy and carrying out research.
As a policy development and advisory body for government, we don’t manage individual workers’ compensation claims.
Each state and territory has its own workers’ compensation scheme and the Commonwealth has three that cover seafarers, military personnel and Commonwealth employees and authorities licensed to self-insure under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Commonwealth).
September 2019 marked the launch of the landmark National Return to Work Strategy 2020-2030 that sets an ambitious 10-year action plan to improve return to work outcomes for workers across Australia.
We produce three annual publications that provide key information on workers’ compensation in Australia and New Zealand. These include:
- Comparison of Workers' Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand, which provides information about workers’ compensation arrangements and the differences between schemes 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 helps gauge the success of different approaches carried out by the various workers’ compensation and WHS authorities to reduce the incidence of work-related injury and disease.
- Australian Workers’ Compensation statistics, which provides detailed workers’ compensation statistics on trends over time, 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
We are committed to a number of projects and initiatives that relate to workers’ compensation. These include:
- A series of projects to improve return to work outcomes of injured workers, including:
- Developing a best practice framework for claims management of psychological injuries.
- Completing a project to support general practitioners to achieve better health and return to work outcomes.
- Making de-identified data from the National Return to Work Survey available through the Australian Data Archive.
- Continuing to co‑fund an Institute of Safety Compensation and Recovery Research study with WorkSafe Victoria over three years, to examine the impact of workers’ compensation system policy and practice on return to work in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The ComPARE Project is scheduled to finish in early 2018.
- Ongoing role in relation to permanent impairment to make sure the template National Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment and the National Permanent Impairment Assessor’s Training Package are maintained and updated. This process will be facilitated by the National Permanent Impairment Coordinating Committee, which will be convened in 2017.
Return to work
Return to work refers to helping injured workers stay or get back to work. The return to work/rehabilitation provisions in legislation provide for the safe and durable return to work of an injured worker as early as possible, allowing for their injury.
The four factors critical to a successful return to work include:
- early intervention
- an effective workplace-based rehabilitation program
- effective claims management and cooperation
- collaboration and consultation between stakeholders.
Return to Work Survey 2018
The National Return to Work Survey was carried out in mid-2018 with all Australian jurisdictions (except South Australia) taking part.
- In 2018, the vast majority (92.7%) of all workers surveyed reported having returned to work at any time since their work-related injury or illness.
More information can be found on the return to work page.
All jurisdictions in Australia provide some form of workers’ compensation scheme.
In the past, workers had to establish there was a causal connection between a particular work exposure and the disease their claim was based on.
This was fine when there was significant uncertainty as to whether a particular exposure caused the disease. However, where there was strong evidence of a causal connection there seemed little point requiring every worker to prove that connection.
To streamline access to workers’ compensation, improve fairness and clarity, and reduce the chance claims could be disputed, we commissioned a report to review the latest scientific research to inform policy and develop an Australian list of scheduled diseases and guidance material.
The Deemed Diseases in Australia report was published on 31 August 2015.
- The deemed diseases approach reverses the onus of proof when a claim is made, but does not guarantee the success of a claim. The worker still has to demonstrate they have had sufficient occupational exposure to the relevant exposure.
Criteria used to develop the list of deemed diseases
- Strong causal link between the disease and occupational exposure.
- Clear diagnostic criteria—there had to be little question about whether or not the claimant really had the disease that was the subject of the claim.
- The disease comprises a considerable proportion of the cases of that disease in the overall population or in an identifiable subset of the population.
When someone sustains an injury it may result in a permanent impairment.
A prerequisite to determining the level of permanent impairment is the understanding that it shouldn’t be decided until the claimant has improved as much as is possible; that is when their impairment has become stable or isn’t likely to improve despite medical treatment.
- In addition to the assessment principles laid out in the AMA Guides, scheme legislation also provides substantial guidance on how to determine whether or not impairment is permanent.
In 2013, we made recommendations to the Ministerial Council on nationally consistent arrangements to assess permanent impairment, which were agreed to by the majority of jurisdictions in early-2014.
As a result we are now developing a national permanent impairment guide and a system for updating it, as well as developing a training package for medical practitioners who want to become permanent impairment assessors.
Workers’ compensation statistics
The NDS dataset feeds into a number of our reports that include only serious claims.
- A serious claim is an accepted workers’ compensation claim for an incapacity that results in a total absence from work of one working week or more.
Claims in receipt of common-law payments are also included, however claims that arise from a journey to or from work or during a recess period are not compensable in all jurisdictions so are excluded.
- The NDS comprises accepted workers’ compensation claims lodged by the end of the financial year (1 July–30 June).
More information can be found on the WHS statistics page.
SWA is not a workers’ compensation authority and cannot advise you on workers’ compensation insurance or claims, permanent impairment assessment and provisions, or deemed diseases. If you need help, please contact your relevant workers’ compensation authority.