3 December, 2013
Changes to be introduced by WorkCoverSA will lead to poor outcomes for workers already vulnerable due to work-related injuries and have far-reaching unintended consequences. It appears these changes are being driven by a desire by the State Government to reign in WorkCoverSA by targeting workplace rehabilitation. It also appears that, according to the WorkCoverSA annual report, vocational rehabilitation costs employers $27.9million, which is less than what it costs WorkCoverSA pay its staff salaries and benefits.
So says the spokesperson for ARPA, the industry body representing workplace rehabilitation providers across Australia.
Licia Kokocinski, the CEO of ARPA, says she is disappointed that WorkCoverSA is proceeding without genuine dialogue with the various parties involved in the Workcover system.
“ARPA acknowledges that the WorkCover system in SA needs reforming. It’s financial situation is not sustainable and that attempts to reform the system by tinkering with bits and pieces of it had not worked. One of the reasons the system was haemorrhaging was because workers were not being referred for rehabilitation until very late in their histories. The reality is that the longer that a worker is out of work, the more difficult it was for them to return to work successfully” Ms Kokocinski said. “ Rehabilitation providers are being blamed and pilloried for the poor performance of various parts of the system – the current problems in the WorkCover system are systemic. Singling out rehabilitation providers will not fix systemic problems.”
ARPA has made clear their willingness to work with Workcover to increase the rates of return to work, but our attempts to get proper exchanges of dialogue and consultation had come to nothing. “We get very frustrated when we speak to WorkCover representatives,” Licia said. “The dialogue is one-way – WorkCover telling us what is going to happen. When we try to advise WorkCover about the implications of various actions and suggest options, we just get rebuffed, as if we are just a self-interested mob who wants the status quo to remain, which is just not fair and an incorrect assumption in the first place. As specialists in this field, we, as an industry, can offer solutions.”
ARPA was concerned that the reforms will mean that injured workers who need to find a new employer will be dealt with by people not qualified in the field of workplace rehabilitation whilst at the same time, still being clients of WorkCoverSA.
Where injured workers require workplace-related rehabilitation, it appears that the latest changes will mean that their cases will be dealt with by the insurance agents through what are called “case managers.” Ms Kokocinski said that these so-called ‘case managers’ were not qualified to undertake fair-dinkum case management in the true sense of the word, but were in fact, claims administrators/managers.” “These two roles are hugely different and there is a legal duty of care on case managers – nothing that WorkCover has said so far has changed our view that they just don’t understand the differences,” Licia said. “Alternatively,” she said, “injured workers return to work activities are supposed to be dealt with by a company’s internal processes. This is fine for some workplaces, but what about small to medium companies. We are concerned that the job of handling the return-to-work of injured workers in small to medium companies is going to be handled by administration staff, which is unrealistic.”
“Some of the changes that will be put in place by WorkCoverSA will, in fact, lead to further increases in the spending on rehabilitation, not a reduction ” Licia said. ARPA predicts that the new changes will only lead to increased disputation and litigation against Workcover and insurance company determinations, “and that cannot be good for anyone!”
“ARPA is more than prepared to sit down and enter into good faith discussions with WorkCoverSA to ensure injured workers are returned to work as quickly as possible after their injury. But, so far, neither WorkCoverSA nor the state government attitude has not been conducive to constructive dialogue,” Licia Kokocinski said.
For any further enquiries, ring: Licia Kokocinski, CEO, ARPA