The Queensland Government, delivering on an election promise, has introduced legislation designed to:
- reinstate common law rights for injured workers;
- provide additional compensation to particular workers impacted by the common law threshold;
- provide greater certainty of entitlement and accessibility to compensation for firefighters by introducing deemed disease provisions for firefighters with prescribed diseases; and
- prohibit prospective employers from continuing to access an individual’s claims history.
This article looks briefly at the proposed changes, and in particular, how an injured worker’s access to common law damages has changed over the past few years.
Queensland Workers compensation – before October 2013
Prior to the October 2013 amendments, a worker with a work injury who could prove negligence against their employer could access a common law claim. However, if a worker’s work-related impairment was less than 20% the worker had to choose between:
- receiving a statutory lump sum payment; and
- seeking damages at common law.
Queensland Workers compensation – October 2013 amendments
In October 2013, the then Queensland Government amended the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Act) to introduce a common law threshold of 5% Degree of Permanent Impairment (DPI).
Access to common law damages was restricted to:
- an injured worker who had received a notice of assessment from the insurer for a work-related injury and the DPI for the assessed injury was more than 5%;
- an injured worker with a terminal condition; or
- the dependent of a deceased worker.
If an injured worker could not satisfy the 5% DPI, they could only access the statutory compensation.
It was thought that the introduction of the 5% DPI would halve the number of common law claims for work-related injuries.
Queensland Workers Compensation – 2015 amendments
Essentially, the changes will take workers compensation back to the way they were before October 2013.
When the 2015 amendments become law, they will apply retrospectively from 31 January 2015 (the date of the last Queensland election) and will remove the requirement that a worker must have an assessed DPI of more than 5% arising from their injury in order to be entitled to seek common law damages.
What does this mean for employers?
The 2015 amendments will result in an increase in the number of common law claims for compensation for work-related injuries. It is also expected to lead to an increase in workers compensation insurance premiums.