Workers’ Compensation — New ‘return to work’ framework becomes law

We previously informed our readership of the significant changes to the South Australian workers’ compensation framework, which at that time was under consideration by State Parliament. Those changes have now been assented into law, with very little substantive amendment from their original introduction, as the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) and the South Australian Employment Tribunal Act 2014 (SA).

It is anticipated that the bulk of the new framework will commence on 1 July 2015. Matters with which employers will need to become familiar under the new framework include:

  • the right of any injured worker, where there is an alleged failure by an employer to provide suitable work, to apply to the new South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) for an order that the employer provide specified employment to the worker (as well as an order for the worker’s costs of proceedings). Failure to adhere to such an order can carry significant financial consequences for employers;
     
  • the powers of the SAET, which is the more flexible, more inquisitorial successor to the Workers Compensation Tribunal, to exercise a variety of powers in conducting its proceedings, including:

       o Entering and inspecting property;

       o Referring questions before it for investigation and report by an expert; and

       o Referring a matter to mediation before a mediator specified by the SAET;
     
  • a distinction between ‘seriously injured’ workers (being workers with permanent impairment, and a degree of whole person impairment, of or greater than 30%) and those who are not seriously injured; and
     
  • the ability of ‘seriously injured’ workers to pursue common law damages through law courts in parallel with their rights under the workers compensation scheme.

This important legal development will be one of numerous subjects examined by our practitioners on 10 April 2015 at the Norman Waterhouse Walking the Talk 2015 Industrial Relations seminar, details of which are available at head of the main page of this edition of the Briefly.

For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article please contact Sathish Dasan on 08 8210 1253 or sdasan@normans.com.au or John Ward on 08 8210 1219 or jward@normans.com.au.