Navigating the Latest Workers’ Comp Changes: What Employers Need to Know

Alright, folks, it’s time to buckle up and get clued in on the recent shake-up in the world of workers’ compensation down under in Victoria. As of March 31, 2024, the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 got a makeover courtesy of the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (WorkCover Scheme Modernisation) Act 2024. Now, before you start scratching your head and wondering what this means for you as an employer, let me break it down into plain English.

Mental Health Claims: What’s Changed?

First off, mental health claims are under the microscope with these updates. There’s now a snazzy new definition of ‘mental injury’ in the mix. What does that mean? Well, for your employees to bag compensation for mental injuries, it’s now got to be because their mental incapacitation is significantly messing with their mojo in life. Interestingly, the diagnosis must be by a medical practitioner, not a psychologist, and it has to meet the requirements as defined in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

But hold your horses; not every bit of workplace stress will cut it. If your employee’s mental injury is mainly due to the everyday grind—like workload pressures or a spat with a colleague that’s not quite bullying territory—they might be out of luck. However, if they’re in the frontline trenches, dealing with traumatic events as part of their job, they’re still in the running for compensation.

And here’s the kicker: forget about the ‘significant contributing factor’ test. To cash in, the mental injury must predominantly rear its head because of the job. So, if they’ve got a pre-existing mental injury making a comeback, work has to take most of the blame.

130 Weeks and Beyond: What’s the Deal?

Now, let’s talk about that 130-week mark. In the old days, workers could ride that weekly payment train for 130 weeks if they were unable to tackle their pre-injury duties and things were looking indefinite. But now? It’s a whole new ball game.

To keep those payments rolling beyond 130 weeks, your worker needs to prove their ‘whole person impairment (WPI)’ hits the 20% mark, all thanks to the workplace injury. Plus, they can’t be showing any signs of indefinite work capacity. These assessments will be set up by WorkSafe and self-insurers.

And hey, if there’s a dispute over the percentage of assessed impairment, you’ve got the ace up your sleeve: the Medical Panel. They’ll lay down the law with a binding assessment.

Information Sharing: What’s the Scoop?

Now, onto the nitty-gritty of information sharing. WorkSafe’s got the green light to swap info between its different departments. Why does that matter? Well, when it comes to occupational health and safety investigations, having all the facts at their fingertips could make a world of difference.

Dispute Resolution and Statutory Review: What’s Next?

When it comes to disputes, forget about arbitration after conciliation. It’s straight to court for a showdown. And keep your eyes peeled for that independent review in 2027. A panel of bigwigs will be taking a deep dive into these changes to see what’s working and what needs a tweak.

What Should Employers Do Now?

Alright, folks, let’s get practical. If you’re scratching your head, wondering if your policies match up with these changes, it’s time to have a chat with your insurer. And when it comes to those mental health claims, good record-keeping is your best buddy. If you’ve got doubts, act fast, sort out those workplace issues pronto, and spill all the beans to your WorkCover agent.

On a really practical sense if you have performance issues with an employee you need to act fast and up front, dragging things out or not acting at all could lead you down a garden path in the long run. One leading to a nasty stress claim that could be preventable from the get-go.

So, there you have it, folks! The lowdown on the latest changes in Victoria’s workers’ compensation scheme. Stay informed, stay proactive, and let’s keep the workplace safe and sound.

Written by Emily Jaksch

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