A lot has been said over the years about the harmonisation of workers’ compensation in Australia. Unfortunately, very little has been achieved and we have many schemes in Australia that each have unique processes and regulations for underwriting, premium methodology, claims management and general administration of each scheme. Now that the Comcare scheme could potentially be open to a large number of multi-state employers, is this a first step towards a truly harmonised scheme?
You may be aware that in December last year, the Federal Government finally lifted the existing moratorium that was introduced by the previous Labor government in 2007. This moratorium prohibited non-Commonwealth organisations from obtaining a self-insurance licence under Comcare. This was a most unfair position for large organisations as they were effectively being denied the right to provide employees with the same workers’ compensation benefits across the whole country and therefore the right to treat all employees, no matter location, equally and equitably.
I strongly support equal opportunity employment rights. While there are significant barriers to true harmonisation of the Australian workers’ compensation system, I believe that all multi-state employers should have access to a more harmonised system than what they currently have access to and as a minimum all employers needs access to a scheme that has the same benefits and OH&S rules and all under the control of a single regulator.
I applaud the current Federal government for finally introducing into Federal Parliament the SRC Bill 2014, on 19th March of this year, as a small part of an overall greater reform package to repeal over 10,000 unnecessary and counter-productive pieces of legislation and regulations, in a bid to reduce red tape across the economy and improve Australia’s competitiveness. This is a very important Bill and the most important aspect of this Bill is that, when passed, it will ensure that all licence-holders under the Comcare scheme operate under an integrated workers’ compensation and work, health and safety regime. This harmonisation of OH&S will be an historic achievement in the history of compensation schemes in Australia and one which will make life so much easier for a multi-state employer. In addition to this, there are various other aspects that will improve the long-term viability of this scheme and simplify the administrative process of applying for a licence and simplify the overall administration of the scheme. Also, the current “competition test” will be replaced by a “national employer test”, thereby providing opportunities for a large number of organisations to consider the Comcare scheme and the many advantages that it offers as an alternative to its current arrangements.
Once this Bill is passed, Comcare will be an excellent option for any employer to consider that currently has operations in more than one state in Australia. Contrary to some media reports I believe that the benefits in Comcare are both extremely comprehensive and very affordable. Furthermore, any changes that may occur in the future are likely to further increase the affordability of the scheme relative to state schemes. When the Bill is passed we will have a scheme with the same benefits, same OH&S rules and under the control of a single regulator. This will be an historic first step towards the harmonisation of workers’ compensation in Australia.
There may be potential financial and administrative savings to be made by moving to the Comcare scheme. Also, the greater control that self-insurance provides an employer makes it worthwhile for most organisations to at least consider whether self-insurance and Comcare self-insurance in particular is the most appropriate way to provide workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers. We are happy to worth through your individual case and discuss any particular questions you may have regarding the Comcare scheme, state schemes and self-insurance in general. For this or any other self-insurance related query, please contact Ezio Lo Castro on 0427 716 995.
Ezio Lo Castro