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Published: 04 May 2011
Author: Shaun Marcus
(that is, as long as your workplace injury was after 5 April 2011)
It has long been a source of frustration, if not anger, among injured workers that, having suffered the pain of a workplace injury, which can often end their jobs, they then incurred the indignity of having their Super suspended forever, with little prospect of adding to their retirement money.
One of the welcome, if often overlooked, changes made to compensation law last year now requires WorkCover to continue paying superannuation to injured workers.
Under changes made to the Accident Compensation Act, WorkCover will now pick up the Super contributions of injured workers once they have been on weekly benefits for one year, and continue to pay them till the standard retirement age, provided of course that the worker continues to be entitled to a weekly payment from WorkCover.
This loophole has long been a major irritation, if not source of anger, for workers. Faced with mounting medical bills, stonewalling by a company's insurer, anxiety at home, and uncertainty about the future, they then have their future superannuation payments stripped from them.
In my experience, and that of my WorkCover experts within RCT, the changes will most put the minds at ease of workers in their late 40s and early 50s, who even though they may respond well to rehabilitation, often face a tough task finding new employment. For these people especially, the prospect of being marooned on a disability pension for their rest of their lives, with little prospect of having any excess cash for basic home maintenance, support for their grandchildren, a replacement car, or whatever they may have in mind, has been a bleak and embittering experience.
Following that period of 52 weeks of receiving weekly payments, WorkCover or a self-insurer must continue to pay superannuation to the injuryed worker's Super Fund, subject to it being a fund that complies with the Superannuation Act. The employee must notify WorkCover or the Self-Insurer of his or her tax file number and details of the fund into which the payments will continue to be made.
WorkCover must within 28 days of having become aware that it is liable to pay to a worker continuing Super payments, notify the worker in writing of these arrangements. WorkCover Insurers regularly miss deadline dates, we highly recommend you follow up your Insurer or contact your lawyer to ensure you are receiving your correct entitlements.
The rate at which of the Super payments will continue must be expressed as a percentage figure in that notification. The intent here is that the Super contributions reflect the minimum percentage required under the Commonwealth Government's superannuation legislation, and so any future changes to that legislation should be reflected also in the rate of payment made to the injured worker.
There is typically a downside in any compensation legislation, and these amendments are no exception, and here is the rub. The Super arrangements are only effective for all claims made on or after 5 April 2011. Existing claims prior to this date miss out.
So while there are deficiencies in the new Act, and some of the positive amendments are long over-due, the changes are welcome and will offer some financial relief to workers who, often through no fault of their own, have found themselves stranded on a subsistence pension with little prospect of improving their financial standing.
Shaun Marcus is an associate with RCT who specialises in workers compensation.