THE State Government recently made changes to the legislation affecting WorkCover for Queensland.
The move attracted significant criticism from lawyers and unions across the state.
Queensland Farmers Federation welcomed the move and said the changes aim to provide balance to the process, protect employers from fraudulent claims, and ultimately reduce the cost of WorkCover premiums.
One key change will allow employers access to the claims history of job applicants.
QFF believes this will help farmers avoid being the target of repeat offenders when it comes to fraudulent claims.
We also welcome a toughening of the rules that protect employers from excessive civil suits.
The changes now mean that in order to enter a claim a person must sustain at least a 5% "whole of person impairment" and it is this issue that has raised the ire of lawyers.
However QFF believes the absence of a threshold encouraged litigation, and increased the costs of premiums and the risks for employers, so we consider these changes to be fair and reasonable.
The State Government has not altered journey claims - which covers employees travelling to and from work - and this would indicate they have listened to employee groups, offering a level of cover beyond that of other jurisdictions.
As a result of the law changes, the State Government indicated employers could expect WorkCover premiums to face downward price pressure, a trend anticipated by QFF.
Another focus for the government is the emphasis on return to work after injury, which will require careful planning and management when it comes to matching this to the unique needs of agricultural employment.
The nature of employment and work duties in this sector means it could take some time to assess the positive and negatives of any change, as farm work can be varied yet specific to individual employees or roles.
A flexible approach is required to manage a return to meaningful work.
Ultimately, I believe employers and employees want a sustainable system that offers fair protection but allows Queensland business to be competitive.
It is anticipated these changes will contribute to those outcomes.