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Boxing Day 2017 spells the end of workers compensation payments for thousands of NSW workers, many who are no longer medically fit to work

Boxing Day 2017 spells the end of workers compensation payments for thousands of NSW workers, many who are no longer medically fit to work

Published on December 23, 2017 by Scott DougallScott Dougall

From Boxing Day 2017 thousands of injured NSW workers, many found by their own insurers to be medically unfit to ever return to work, will no longer receive weekly compensation payments.

Changes to the NSW Compensation scheme mean that after 5 years injured workers who do not meet minimum impairment levels lose their benefits.

The cut off of payments beginning on the day after Christmas, will happen to even those injured workers whose insurers accept that they are incapable of working in the future.

The first of 6,000 injured workers will start having their payments end on Boxing Day with thousands of others to face losing their payments over the first quarter of 2018.

“For thousands of injured workers Christmas 2017 is going to be a very uncertain and bewildering time”, said Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers’ Scott Dougall.

“Five years of payments will end on Boxing Day and injured workers will have legitimate concerns as to how they will meet the cost of ongoing medical and other support services in 2018 when they have no capacity to work.

“The problem for the injured workers about to lose their weekly payments is that they fall short of the 21% impairment threshold required to retain weekly payments beyond 5 years, even though they are accepted by their insurer as having no capacity for work”, said Mr Dougall.

One injured NSW worker who faced losing his payments on Boxing Day is Craig, who has suffered serious back injuries during employment at a Council.

Craig is unable to work as a result of the chronic pain he suffers, his inability to sit upright for more than 30 minutes and his lack of mobility.

“I am unable to work and my doctors have confirmed that I have no capacity to work ever again.

“The surgery I am now waiting for will only slow the rate of ongoing deterioration of my back, it will not return me to my health before I suffered these injuries

“When I first injured myself in 1997 I was told that I would be supported until the age of 66 but then the NSW Government cut that to 5 years.

“For people in my position, who are unable to work, the prospect of losing these payments is very frightening.

“And I only have a short reprieve so the threat of losing my payments remains very real and when they do stop I will have no option but to seek assistance through Centrelink and that means the taxpayers are having to foot the bill for what insurers should.

“To be doing this to injured workers at Christmas time is very upsetting”, said Craig.

“What is happening in NSW is out of step with what is happening in other states such as Victoria which recognises the need of workers who are found to be unable to work”, said Scott Dougall.

“In the Victorian Workers Compensation scheme, for example, there is a provision which allows for continuing weekly payments for workers who are totally unfit and this doesn’t require an injured worker to meet any impairment threshold”

“The NSW Government should introduce the same safeguards for injured workers in this state to avoid them facing an uncertain future in 2018”, said Mr Dougall

Craig’s Case Study

Craig is 52 years old and sustained multiple back injures during his work in a local council.

  • He suffers chronic pain
  • His mobility is limited and he requires a crutch to move
  • He is unable to sit upright for more than 30 minutes at a time
  • He is severely restricted in his capacity to socialise, leave the home or travel short distances
  • As a result of his pain he is on a range of strong medication
  • Craig’s treating doctors, and the insurer’s doctor, agree he is unfit to work
  • Craig will not exceed the 20% permanent impairment test despite the severity of his symptoms and the impact of them on him, which means he cannot work and is disabled by his injury.
  • His compensation payments were due to be terminated on Boxing Day 2017 but Craig was advised of a temporary reprieve on 22nd December as he is awaiting surgery.
  • Craig says that when his insurance payments cease he will be forced to seek help from Centrelink, transferring the burden to taxpayers
  • Craig will lose his medical benefits in a further 2 years

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