Mismanagement of Workers’ Compensation in New South Wales

Andrew Lao 10 August, 2020

“(I had to) fight for treatment”

“(I felt) totally worthless, I was in no state to work, yet they were dropping me from the system”

The workers’ compensation scheme is often described as a ‘safety net’ for injured workers. It aims to support workers with the necessary funding for treatment to help them return to work. However, recent investigations into the compensation scheme in New South Wales (NSW) have found issues with the system, which have caused poor outcomes for not only the worker, but for many other stakeholders. 


The issue

In NSW, ICare, one of the largest insurance companies, has taken over the role of looking after the workers’ compensation scheme. However, as a private insurance company that largely deals with policies outside the workers’ compensation space, it has faced much scrutiny:

  1. There are financial incentives from WorkSafe for insurance agencies to close claims.
  2. Individual case managers have performance bonuses depending on the number of claims which are closed. 
  3. Many case managers which look after compensation claims have little to no contact with the injured worker.

The effects

To the worker:

On an individual scale, the worker is impacted the most. The worker’s recovery does not appear to be the main priority for these agencies. This can affect the physical wellbeing of the worker from interrupted or delayed treatment, to the worker’s mental wellbeing due to the stresses of medical expenses and reimbursement.  Approval from insurance companies to receive medical treatment is often dragged out and delayed. Additionally, the ability to work and be engaged with work colleagues is no longer possible, which can be very important factors contributing to mental wellness. 


To the business:

Workers’ compensation serves to support an injured worker’s return to work. Under the management of ICare, in January 2018, workers not back to work within a 6 month period had increased from 10% to 20% as quoted by Carmel Donnelly, a Chief Executive for SIRA in NSW in a 4 Corners report. For the business itself, this means more time lost due to injury at work, lost productivity and a system that is not supporting workers back to work as well as it should be.  


Statistically, the longer a worker is away from work, the likelihood of them returning to work decreases dramatically as seen below: 

 Royal College of Physicians Consensus Statement (2011). Realising the Health Benefits of Work.

The solution

Systemically, many changes will need to be made to address the issues faced within the workers’ compensation scheme in NSW. However, being empathetic, demonstrating workers are valued, and supporting workers through the recovery process goes a long way to achieving great outcomes. 

Investing in an onsite physiotherapy program in your workplace can address many of the issues faced by businesses by returning workers to work and ideally utilising a proactive approach, where workers’ compensation isn’t required. Employ Health has partnered with many businesses for years and can deliver a range of services such as:
- Early Intervention programs to manage workplace injuries
- Health challenges to engage workers
- Job task risk assessments
- Preventative workplace initiatives such as tailored strengthening sessions

When a business has a genuine interest and concern for its assets, the workers, workers feel supported and have that sense of a “safety net”, which leads to a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.