The latest industry insights into compensation law.

Queensland’s Workcover System Continues to Lead the Way

The recent announcement by Queensland’s Minister for Industrial Relations that average Workcover premiums for Queensland employers will remain at the same level for the sixth year running highlights Queensland’s strong and fair workers compensation scheme, and again demonstrates that maintaining a viable scheme need not come at the cost of penalising injured workers.

Queensland continues to have the lowest average workers compensation premiums of any state or territory. This is notwithstanding the fact that Queensland preserves significant common law damages entitlements for injured workers in addition to their statutory entitlements and furthermore, it does not require that injured worker meet a threshold level of impairment to access those common law damages entitlements.

Most other states and territories in Australia, as well as the Commonwealth for its employees (eg. Commonwealth public servants, defence employees, postal workers), have:

  • Eradicated common law entitlements completely; or,
  • Where they haven’t eradicated common law entitlements, have imposed disability thresholds, meaning a common law claim cannot be brought unless there is a minimum impairment level.

The problem with these thresholds is that they operate arbitrarily to deny justice to injured workers with a genuine impairment. A 5% whole person impairment caused by a leg injury might not prevent a lawyer from working, but it could severely restrict the work capacity of a builder’s labourer. Impairment thresholds of 10%, 15% and even 20% have been adopted in interstate regimes.

The rights and entitlements destroyed by these changes have generally been imposed “long tail” schemes of ongoing compensation, which have generally proved to be disastrous. They expose governments and insurers to long term liabilities with resulting pressure to cut benefits back, leaving injured persons to play a never ending game of catch up in trying to secure much needed ongoing financial support.

By way of contrast, the common law process under the Queensland system, in addition to the statutory workers compensation benefits available, allows for a single, once and final lump sum payment that empowers injured workers to take control of their lives and make a new start that accommodates their impairment, by retraining into another field, establishing a business, or simply working on a reduced basis, without undue financial hardship. At the same time, the payment terminates the liability of the state and/or the insurer and thus preserves the bottom line for taxpayers and for premium paying employers.

That the Queensland Workcover scheme is able to do all of this and yet remain fully funded, in contrast to the parlous state of the other interstate regimes, is a remarkable achievement.

Our scheme accordingly strikes the right balance between the interests of injured workers on the one hand, and employer/government/insurance interests on the other, and is a scheme that should be jealously protected from legislative interference.

John has practised in the area of compensation law for over 25 years. He has extensive experience across all types of claims for clients from all walks of life. John is a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist.

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State updated!
Your state has been updated to QLD. Practice areas on compensation law have been updated.