The Queensland government is currently considering making some changes to the workers compensation laws in Queensland. One of the changes they are considering is the introduction of a 5% threshold for common law claims.
What this means is that someone who suffers an injury at work will first have to show that they have suffered at least a 5% work related impairment before they will be entitled to sue their employer for negligence.
So, what is the problem with that you ask?
Well, there are many problems with it, including the following:
- A threshold will wipe out approximately 50% of all workers’ compensation common law claims, thereby depriving half of the Queensland population of significant compensation for injuries suffered at work through no fault of their own;
- “Impairment” does not consider “disability”. Someone can have a relatively minor “impairment” as a result of the work related injury but then be unable to work ever again due to the work injury being “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (ie their “disability” from the injury is huge but their “impairment” is minor);
- It will leave a large percentage of injured workers unemployed, unemployable and on the poverty line, relying on Centrelink;
- There will be a significant increase in disputes about whether a worker’s injury meets or does not meet the threshhold, thereby potentially tripling or quadrupling the workload of the Medical Assessment Tribunals, Q-Comp and the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission;
- Employers will be less careful about protecting the workplace health and safety of their workers, as they will know that at least half of the workers will not be able to sue them for their carelessness, negligence or even complete contempt for their safety.
These changes have the potential to devastate many working families in Queensland and for what reason?
Our system is not broken. In fact, the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme is seen by most other States and other commentators as being the best in Australia. Employers in Queensland enjoy extremely low premiums (second only to Victoria) and WorkCover Queensland’s fund balance is estimated at the moment to be around an extremely healthy $200M, far more than any other State in Australia.
I certainly wouldn’t want to be responsible for changing a system when it is so successful, only to run the risk of it becoming an administrative and financial disaster like many other workers’ compensation schemes in Australia.