ANMF (Victorian Branch) has joined other Victorian unions to campaign against anticipated changes to the Victorian accident compensation laws that, in many instances, will be detrimental to injured workers, including nurses.
The report of Peter Hanks QC on the Victorian Accident Compensation Act 1985 for the Victorian Government was released in September 2008.
ANMF is concerned that the State Government may implement recommendations in the report which the ANMF believes would:
- delay and complicate settlement of disputes between nurses and employers or agents on compensation claims
- decrease employers' legal obligations to accommodate the return to work of injured and ill nurses
- prevent compensation for stress caused by ‘reasonable' management actions
- delay proper assessment and compensation for spinal injury.
The ANMF, as part of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, has prepared a campaign to protect injured nurses, seeking laws that include:
- strengthened authority for the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service, an independent body, to determine disputes between nurses and employers or agents
- strong employer obligations for return to work
- equitable access to compensation for work-caused stress
- improved compensation for spinal and other injuries.
Members will need to actively support this campaign to stop cut-backs and to achieve improvements that will protect injured nurses.
Victorian Government promises
Victorian Finance Minister Tim Holding announced on 10 December 2007 that:
"Victoria's Accident Compensation Act will be updated to enhance support for injured workers"
Mr Peter Hanks, QC, would chair an independent review of the Act.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC), the ANMF (Vic Branch) and the Injured Nurses Support Group made submissions to the Review.
Mr Hanks did not discuss the submissions with the ANMF (Vic Branch) or the Injured Nurses Support Group.
External experts in workers' compensation were not included in the Review Secretariat.
The Review Report was released in September 2008.
Legislation is expected in early 2009.
ANMF (Vic Branch) concerns
Our concerns include the Review's recommendations on:
- resolution of disputes
- employer return to work obligations
- compensation for stress.
- compensation for spinal injury.
Resolution of disputes
Under the current Act members have access to the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS) for workers' compensation decisions.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council submitted to the Review that the powers of the ACCS should be strengthened so that it can effectively determine, as well as conciliate, disputed matters.
The Review proposes a more costly and protracted process preventing the ACCS from determining matters, sending compensation disputes to Courts.
Employer return to work obligations
The Review considers that employers should have "more flexibility".
Your employer would no longer be required by legislation to develop a Return to Work Plan if you are off work from injury.
Unions have made it clear to WorkSafe that employer return to work legislative obligations have not been properly enforced.
The Review recommendations would make enforcement more difficult and make the situation of injured workers more uncertain.
Compensation for stress
The Review wants the Government to agree that psychiatric injury or illness would not be compensated for if it was caused by "reasonable management actions".
The Review also proposes that, at the request of an employer, workers suffering work-caused psychiatric injury would be required to take part in mediation or counselling before compensation liability is determined.
WorkSafe knows that common sources of work-related stress are the workplace social environment, physical environment, equipment, systems and management.
Employers would argue that stress compensation should be refused as their actions such as staffing decisions which cause stress are ‘reasonable.'
Compensation for spinal injury
The Review recommends only a 10% increase in the impairment benefits for a spinal injury, while there would be a review of guidelines for assessing permanent impairment.
Victorian assessments of spinal injury exclude the impact on a nurse's daily life.
The ANMF submitted to the Review that assessment of spinal injury should reflect impacts beyond medically assessed impairment.
Take actionFind out more about the Hanks Report and the recommended changes to the accident compensation laws by visiting the Fix WorkCover campaign website www.fixworkcover.org. You can also send a protest email from the website to Victorian Government Ministers and other ALP Members of Parliament.
Victorian Trades Hall Council campaign: Fix WorkCover
- The Victorian Trades Hall Council on 27 July 2008 launched a campaign to influence the government to reject adverse review recommendations and to improve the legislation.
- The ANMF encourages members to support the Victorian Trades Hall Council campaign by visiting the Fix WorkCover campaign website and sending an email to the Government