THE NSW Government has begun a review of workers compensation dispute settling procedures, saying they have become “unnecessarily complex”.
In a discussion paper issued on December 20, Finance Minister Victor Dominello said research by his department suggested most injured workers found the dispute resolution system hard to access and hard to navigate.
“While the legal complexity of the scheme is a contributing factor, the presence of multiple dispute resolution bodies, often with overlapping or poorly understood functions, is also a major source of frustration among injured workers, employers and scheme providers,” Mr Dominello said.
He said an upper house committee reviewed the compo scheme last year and recommended a “one-stop shop” for dispute resolution. The four reform options in the discussion paper aim for this with varying degrees of consolidation.
Labor’s finance spokesperson Clayton Barr said he welcomed the review but was concerned that two of the four options did away with the independent Workers Compensation Ombudsman’s Office (WIRO), which was created in 2012 when WorkCover was broken up by the O’Farrell government.
“WIRO is the only cop on the beat, the only help that workers can rely on in a system that is unfair and out of control,” Mr Barr said.
The discussion paper says last year’s upper house report concluded that “being involved in a workers compensation claim or dispute can be stressful, isolating and psychologically damaging”.
When the Newcastle Herald reported at the weekend on the thousands of workers being cut from the system, many of those who responded complained about the insurer’s doctor rating their impairment less seriously than their own doctor.
The paper suggests a way around this by suggesting the use of a pool of “independent medical examiners” who would not know whether they were commissioned by the injured worker or the insurer.
Submissions close on February 20.
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