The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, today informed the Workplace Relations Ministerial Council (WRMC) meeting of a number of improvements the Government will make to the Comcare scheme following a comprehensive review.
The Comcare scheme provides workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety (OHS) arrangements for employees of the Australian Government and of some private sector companies that are licensed to self-insure their workers’ compensation liabilities under the scheme.
As promised at the last election, the Rudd Government imposed a moratorium on private sector companies seeking to join the Comcare scheme and announced a review to ensure that Comcare is a suitable OHS and workers’ compensation system for self-insurers and their employees.
Given the progress towards harmonised national OHS laws and the proposed transfer of OHS coverage for Comcare self-insurers to the states and territories, the Government will maintain the moratorium until 2011 when uniform OHS laws have been implemented in all jurisdictions.
To do otherwise would cause unnecessary dislocation in that companies would need to adapt to Comcare and then quickly change again to adapt to the new model laws.
The Government will introduce legislation to give effect to the moratorium for this further period.
In response to the review, the Government will make a number of important improvements to the Comcare scheme.
To encourage timely determination of workers’ compensation claims, a statutory time limit will be introduced within which claims must be determined.
The Government will reinstate workers’ compensation coverage for off-site recess breaks. This will re-align the Comcare scheme with the majority of jurisdictions and remove the inequity in coverage for employees whose employers do not provide on-site facilities for meal breaks.
Medical and related costs will continue to be paid where a worker’s weekly compensation benefits are suspended for refusing to participate in the rehabilitation process.
The Minister will direct Comcare to strengthen its enforcement of OHS.
The Minister will also write to Comcare and ask it to issue guidance material to assist employers in improving consultation with all employees on OHS matters.
These improvements build on earlier enhancements and work already underway.
The Government has already increased workers’ compensation lump sum and weekly death benefits under the Comcare scheme to align them more closely with death benefits payable under State and Territory schemes.
In considering improvements to the Comcare scheme, the Government had regard to theReport of the Review of Self Insurance Arrangements under the Comcare Scheme, prepared by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
The Department’s report drew on information from stakeholder consultation and 80 written submissions to the review. The Department engaged Taylor Fry Consulting Actuaries to collect the information and provide expert advice to inform the review.
The Department’s reportis now available online.