Comcare News

10 October 2019 - Comcare liable for psychological injuries sustained by AFP officer in PNG

Angela Sdrinis Legal has been pursuing a claim for compensation for former Australian Police Officer (AFP) Lizzie Wiggins since 2014. The claim was denied by Comcare and fought in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for 3 years.

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WHAT IS AN EMPLOYER'S OBLIGATION TO OFFER ALTERNATIVE DUTIES TO AN INJURED WORKER?

Many workers who suffer injury in the course of their employment are able to do alternative duties. However many employers can be reluctant to offer injured workers alternative duties even though the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA). Under the SRCA, an employer has specific statutory powers and functions under Part III of the SRC Act. These include arranging for a rehabilitation assessment, determining that a rehabilitation program should be undertaken, arranging with an approved rehabilitation program provider for the provision of a suitable program and ensuring suitable employment is provided.

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MORE NATIONAL EMPLOYERS TO MOVE TO COMCARE SCHEME

On 19 March 2014, the Federal government introduced the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (Cth) into the House of Representatives.

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WORKERS WITH PSYCHOLOGICAL INJURIES LIKELY TO BE PUNISHED AGAIN.

The Comcare Scheme has been subjected to a number of reviews since Julia Gillard was Minister for Workplace Relations in 2007. A first review commissioned by Julia Gillard was released in 2009. (http://docs.employment.gov.au/node/28616)

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ACCRUAL OF ENTITLEMENTS AND THE COST OF MEDICATION FOR TELSTRA WORKERS UNDER THE COMCARE SCHEME.

Pursuant to s 116 of the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, a worker is entitled to accrue sick leave and annual leave but only during the first 45 weeks of absence following acceptance of liability for a work related injury. Thereafter, if an injured worker is unable to work, only long service leave accrues under the SRCA. Similarly an employer is only required to make superannuation contributions when an employee is physically working.

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SUPERANNUATION AND INCAPACITY BENEFITS UNDER THE COMCARE SCHEME

Sections 20 and 21 of the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (1988) (SRCA) deal with the effect of superannuation on incapacity benefits. Generally speaking, workers who are in receipt of incapacity or loss of earnings benefits under the SRCA should resist termination or defer resignation because once employment is terminated a worker’s superannuation is “paid out” and even if these payments are rolled over, a worker is deemed to have “received” the lump sum benefit and therefore weekly payments are reduced on the basis of the formula in the Act. (see Archer v Comcare (2000) 101 FCR 30).

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14 January 2015

Many workers who are covered by the Comcare scheme will develop injuries over a period of time and it is not always possible to pinpoint the date of injury. For example, workers who gradually develop back pain or overuse injuries may find it hard to precisely identify when the injury occurred. Similarly in claims involving work related psychological injuries, it may be difficult to show when normal distress or upset because of a work incident, actually becomes a psychological injury.

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ABBOTT GOVERNMENT ATTACKS THE RIGHTS OF INJURED WORKERS

A Bill amending the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (the SRCA) has been introduced in Federal Parliament ( Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Improving the Comcare Scheme) Bill 2015 ) the aim of which is to make the Comcare scheme more sustainable according to Workplace Relations Minister Eric Abetz. These are weasel words which actually mean the aim of the Bill is to reduce worker’s entitlements and providing savings to employers.

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Compo win against Australia Post- NWE, loss of overtime, impairment and physiotherapy treatment.

Angela Sdrinis Legal recently successfully ran a case against Australia Post with the worker winning all 6 Applications before the Tribunal. (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/AATA/2015/461.html). Whilst this decision was based on the facts of the case, there are some interesting aspects:

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Comcare Bill stalled in the Senate -Abetz tries to make changes through the back door

Senator Abetz who has been trying without much success to push the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation (Improving the Comcare Scheme) Amendment Bill 2015 (the Bill) through the Senate has announced a new “fit note” which has been developed for use by all general practitioners in the ACT and surrounding regions before a potential national expansion. (http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/09/new-fit-note-help-injured-workers-get-back-work/#.VfzMtprALIU)

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Comcare Payments Update

Comcare has announced a new payment system which will commence from 1 September 2016 whereby all Comcare payments will be paid directly to employees’, employers’ and service providers’ bank accounts by electronic funds transfer (EFT).

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Comcare Payments and Superannuation

An injured employee who is retired from employment and receives a pension and/or lump sum under a superannuation scheme must have their incapacity payments determined in accordance with sections 20 to 21A of the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA).

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How long should Comcare or a licensee pay for physiotherapy treatment?

Many injured workers covered by the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) first seek legal advice for an accepted claim when liability for physiotherapy treatment for a longstanding injury is ceased. S 61 of SRCA provides that:

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Psychological Injuries - Developments in "Reasonable Administrative Action"

There have been two recent decisions which have shed light on when the ‘reasonable administrative action’ exclusion will operate. The first of these decisions is Comcare v Martin ([2016] HCA 43) which was handed down by the High Court in 2016. The latest decision, in April 2017, is that of Lim v Comcare. But what do these decisions mean?

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COMCARE AND SEACARE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT-MAXIMUM AGE FOR RECEIVING LOSS OF EARNINGS BENEFITS TO INCREASE BEYOND AGE 65

The Comcare and Seacare Legislation Amendment (Pension age and Catastrophic Injury) Bill 2017 has been introduced into Federal Parliament. (https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2017B00080/Explanatory%20Memorandum/Text).

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