RTWMatters, an Australian return-to-work website, has analysed some of the data that has been released through the annual data – Aust & NZ RTW Monitor. The statistics show that the Australian Government’s workers’ compensation insurer, Comcare, has performed well on some performance indicators but others are raising concerns, particularly
- “The cost of claims has risen from $15 000 in 2005-06 to almost $20 000 in 2008-09. This is substantially higher than the national average.
- Around 1/3 of Comcare workers can identify a person who made it harder to RTW, which is higher than the national rate. Over the last three years there has been a significant increase in Comcare employees reporting their employer has hindered return to work.
- Over the last two years, Comcare workers have found it increasingly difficult to find the information they need to make a claim.
- Comcare workers rated their insurer customer service lower than the national average, with communication, advice about the claim and understanding the situation rated lowest.”
Paul O’Connor, at last week’s Comcare Conference in Canberra was very upbeat but was well aware of the challenges ahead particularly for the next five years during a period when the Australian government will attempt to harmonise the OHS laws in each jurisdiction. It should be noted that Paul has been Comcare’s CEO since 1 September 2009. He was formerly with the Transport Accident Commission in Victoria.
O’Connor quoted the Australian Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, during his conference presentation. (The Tanner quotes are from August 2009)
“It is unlikely that we will see any major reform in this area in the near future, as Australia’s various governments are grappling with the challenging task of building uniform national industrial relations and occupational health and safety systems.
“Nevertheless, the current campaign for a national catastrophic injury compensations scheme should trigger a wider debate about injury compensation in our society generally. The present system is fragmented, inequitable, inefficient and arbitrary. Reform could be some time coming but it’s certainly long overdue.”
RTWMatters has identified that more groundwork is going to be needed in the lead-up to the reform process if any measurable improvements are to be achieved. In their media statement, they say
“Real collaboration requires that all stakeholders be able to access information to assess the impact of legislative and systems changes on workers compensation and return to work outcomes.”
The road to reform that Geoff Fary described as very difficult will be an important one to watch.
[Kevin Jones is a feature writer with RTWMatters]