Property Council calls for Upper House to ensure workers compensation policy is fit for purpose

The Property Council of Australia has welcomed the passing of the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill through the lower house of NSW Parliament last night and has encouraged the Upper House to now follow suit.

The NSW Government has set out to repeal a section of legislation which contained a presumption that workers who contract COVID-19 assumes they contracted it in the workplace.

Property Council’s NSW Executive Director Luke Achterstraat said as the health advice and the broader understanding of the virus has evolved, policy settings needed to be reviewed and made fit-for-purpose.

“When Section 19B was introduced, governments had limited knowledge of the virus and made assumptions about the nature of its transmission. Just as our knowledge of the virus has advanced, so too should our policy response."

Mr Achterstraat said workers who did indeed contract COVID-19 in the workplace would be no worse off.

“It is critical to recognise that workers who contract COVID-19 in the workplace will still be eligible to make a claim. The amendment is about removing an automatic assumption in the Act that will have unintended consequences,” he said.

“Upper house members must not play politics with a critical bill of this nature, with business owners still struggling even since the reopening of our state from our latest lockdown.

“There is no time for the Parliament to delay a final outcome on the Bill.

“The property and construction industries have a strong track record on worker safety during the pandemic. Our businesses led the charge with COVID-safe plans, check-in codes and high vaccination rates which allowed construction worksite capacity to resume.

“This is a testament to the strong safety and site management protocols that are part of everyday life for many workers attending building sites across NSW.

“As our state continues to have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, we can begin to adjust not only restrictions, but COVID-19 related legislation that puts a handbrake business investment and jobs growth.

“If unchanged, we will witness a substantial impact on the economy and small businesses as NSW opens up following a period of lockdown in the form of unsustainable increases in premiums.”

Mr Achterstraat said based on current modelling, there could be an additional 25,000 claims per year as a result of COVID-19, if the presumption remains defined under the Act.

“The removal of Section 19B would ensure that a fair and balanced approach is implemented when assessing claims made under the Act and that COVID-19 would be treated much like any other communicable disease defined under the Act.”

Media contact: Aidan Green | M 0491 030 028 | E [email protected]u