UnionsWA has today welcomed an announcement by the McGowan Government that it will ask the WA Parliament to enact needed and urgent as well as COVID-related reform to workers’ compensation laws that protect the rights of working West Australians. The door-stop for media, with responses from public sector unions, can be view here:
Owen Whittle, Assistant Secretary UnionsWA said:
“A West Australian health worker that contracts COVID-19 should not have to face the stress of WA’s outdated, unfair and complex workers’ compensation laws.
“Today’s announcement, if enacted, will mean COVID-19 infected health workers in WA will benefit from the same presumption of having contracted the disease at the workplace as applies currently to fire-fighters that contract prescribed cancers through exposure at work.
“This means WA’s health workers with COVID-19 will get care and compensation quickly.
“These changes bring some justice to the system to ensure that health workers will not be faced with the stress of having to go through a long and costly process to prove and document work exposure to COVID-19.
“The need for urgent reform is clear.
“Another COVID-related anomaly is a hard limit or cap on payments for compensation linked to average weekly earnings and other similar indicators.
“Caps were created on the assumption that, for example, average earnings, and therefore maximum weekly compensation payments for ill and injured working people, would increase over time to meet rising costs of living.
“However, average earnings and other such indicators have declined in recent times and are expected to fall further due to the pandemic-related recession.
“Clearly this cap is unfair.
“Many weekly compensation recipients and their families have to meet rising costs of living that are unrelated to average earnings fluctuations.
“A work injury or illness should not result in a loss of wages.
“The reform Bill proposes to address an anomaly where working people who have been injured or ill through work have a “termination day” set, meaning that after a certain date they lose their right to take civil action to sue for fair compensation.
“Civil rights to sue are an important disincentive for poor work health and safety practices.
“In addition, a cut-off date means that as new information about matters such as the transmission of new work-related diseases such as COVID-19, such new information cannot be taken into account through our justice system.
“There are many other examples of the ways in which our workers’ compensation laws in WA are outdated, unfair and complex.
“These changes are limited welcome but further reform is needed and have been recommended to government.
“So, while working people and unions understand the needs for these urgent changes, we look forward to a comprehensive and needed overhaul of existing laws.”