Global Employment Law

Reform of the Victorian Workers' Compensation System

On 11 March 2010, the Victorian Parliament passed the Accident Compensation Amendment Act 2009 (Vic) (Amending Legislation), which contains significant reforms to the workers' compensation legislation.

Key Issues for Employers

Below is a summary of key changes of interest to employers:

Return to work - the Amending Legislation will repeal the existing return to work section of the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (Vic) and replace it with a new set of provisions providing for outcome-based return to work obligations. These obligations include:

    • providing employees who have 'full capacity' with employment in the same or equivalent position for a period of 12 months;
    • providing employees who have 'partial capacity' with employment in a reasonably suitable position for a period of 12 months;
    • planning and consultation obligations; and
    • nominating a return to work co-ordinator and devising a return to work plan.

Penalties of up to $100,000 will apply for employers who fail to meet these obligations of the relevant standard.

Claims for mental injuries - under the existing law, certain workplace psychological injuries are not compensable where they have arisen from a limited range of 'management action'. Under the Amending Legislation, 'reasonable management action' is given a broader definition which includes counselling workers and investigating allegations of misconduct by either the worker or in circumstances to which the worker was a witness.

Entitlements - the Amending Legislation will result in significant increases in some payments, including lump sum death and permanent injury payments and expanding the entitlement to calculating shift allowances and overtime in weekly payments.

Prohibitions on discrimination - the Amending Legislation introduces laws prohibiting the discrimination of employees on the basis that they have given notice of an injury or have taken steps to pursue a claim for compensation. These provisions will operate in addition to existing discrimination prohibitions under occupational health and safety, equal opportunity and other industrial 'workplace rights' provisions.

Increased powers of Return to Work inspectorate - inspectors will have the power to enter workplaces, obtain documents, and issue improvement notices relating to breaches of return to work obligations. The power to issue improvement notices mirrors the powers of Worksafe inspectors, and is likely to alter the involvement of the Return to Work Inspectorate considerably in complex return to work cases. Employers wanting to challenge by the issuing of a return to work notice will have access to an administrative right to appeal that notice.

When are the amendments effective?

Most of the provisions of the Amending Legislation became effective as at 5 April 2010. However, some provisions, including the following key issues, have separate commencement dates:

  • Changes to 'return to work' regime - 1 July 2010;
  • Increase in lump sum death and permanent injury benefits - 10 December 2009; and
  • Broadening of the exclusion against discrimination - 1 July 2010.

Read the full post here.

This entry was written by Chris Barton and Andrew Pollock.