Thinking | 20 February 2018

Nine years in the making: a review of the WA workers’ compensation legislation

On 15 February 2018, a media statement was released by The Hon Bill Johnston MLA, on behalf of the McGowan Government, advising that a Bill to ‘modernise’ workers’ compensation will be drafted and introduced into Parliament.

In 2009, a two stage review of the workers’ compensation legislation in Western Australia was initiated. The first stage of the review was completed in 2011 with amendments made to the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (Act). The second stage of the review, proposed in 2009, was to develop a ‘new’ workers’ compensation Act.

In June 2014, WorkCover WA released a report containing 171 recommendations for inclusion in the new Act. 

While the Government proposed the drafting of a Bill, it did not eventuate and no finalised Bill was provided to the public for comment or introduced to Parliament.

Now, seven years after the first stage of the review, the Government has now approved the drafting of a Bill to amend the Act. The extent to which the proposed bill will incorporate the recommendations from the 2014 report is unclear.

As to the reasoning behind the further review, Commerce and Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston says that the current Act:

has only been amended on a piecemeal basis since it was adopted in 1981, and it's unwieldy for stakeholders who use and apply it’.

Following the recent enactment of the Motor Vehicle (Catastrophic Injuries) Act 2016 in July 2016, which introduced lifetime care and support for people catastrophically injured in motor vehicle accidents, one of the main proposed amendments to the WA workers’ compensation legislation, referred to in the media statement of 15 February 2018, is to implement lifetime care and support arrangements for catastrophically injured workers.

A public consultation will occur before the draft Bill is introduced into State Parliament. At this stage, there is no timeframe provided.

This will be the second workers’ compensation amendment Bill to be introduced to Parliament by the McGowan Labor Government since it was elected in March 2017. On 1 November 2017, the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Amendment Bill 2017 (WA) was introduced into the Legislative Assembly. The draft Bill is currently before Parliament.

Not all of the recommendations in the 2014 report were adopted in this Bill;  for example, the recommendation that the entitlement of a dependent to redeem a claim where a worker dies, but the death is not the result of the compensable injury, be discontinued.  The government clearly does not feel bound by the recommendations in 2014 report, notwithstanding the extensive consultation that preceded it, and the impact of the proposed bill will no doubt require careful consideration when it is published.

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Ellie McGrory

Ellie is an insurance lawyer whose practice primarily consists of compensation and liability claims.

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