Why Repealing the Common Law Threshold is Important for Injured Workers

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On 17 October 2013, the Workers Compensation Rehabilitation & Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 was passed and with it came several significant changes for injured workers in the Queensland Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. Notably, the amendments held that to make a legitimate common law claim, a worker was required to have above a 5% Degree of Permanent Impairment. Such degree of injury would be reflected in a serious spinal injury.

These amendments caused a significant criticism within the community as many employees suffering a permanent injury due to the negligence on the part of their employer were denied access to common law rights.

On 15 July 2015, in response to the criticism, the Hon. CW Pitt (Treasurer, Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships) presented the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (‘the 2015 Bill’).  The 2015 Bill was designed (among other objectives) to reinstate common law rights for injured workers that were affected by the previous changes made by the 2013 Amendment Act and provide additional compensation to particular workers impacted by the operation of the common law threshold between 15 October 2013 and 31 January 2015.

Any injury suffered between 13 October 2013 and 31 January 2015 will remain covered by the previous version of the Act however, there are some fears that injured workers who do fall within these dates may potentially ‘double dip’ in circumstances where they have already received some form of contribution from a PIPA claim.  In pursuit of this agenda, the Queensland Government further established a stakeholder reference group, consisting of employer representatives, to provide advice on how to mitigate the negative impact this class of workers suffered.

The amendments proposed in the 2015 Bill will be taken to have commenced retrospectively from 31 January 2015, that being the date of the Queensland State election.  Generally, the WorkCover Queensland Board believes that removing the threshold can be achieved without an increase in the average premium rate of $1.20 per $100 wages paid. 

However there will be some financial impacts felt by self-insured employers who do make up an estimated 9.5% of claims within the Queensland scheme.