SA govt brokers deal over worker payments

·2-min read

The South Australian government has brokered a deal with unions and business over proposed legislation that could have slashed compensation payments to some seriously injured workers.

The legislation, which went before the state's upper house recently, was designed to head off a recent court ruling which allowed workers who suffered multiple injuries over a period of time to combine them to reach the 30 per cent 'whole person impaired' threshold.

Reaching the threshold ensures workers receive compensation payments for life.

The government backed the proposed changes as necessary to avoid a huge increase in the levy imposed on local companies, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars, to cover the rising cost of the compensation scheme.

But on Tuesday, Premier Peter Malinauskas said a compromise had been reached to take in the court ruling but still keep a lid on any increase in levy payments.

As a result, the threshold for someone being eligible for lifetime payments will be increased from 30 per cent to 35 per cent impairment.

Workers will also be allowed to take a lump-sum payout rather than weekly payments.

Mr Malinauskas said the government would now bring revised legislation to parliament and hoped to get it passed quickly.

He said the bill would keep levy payments below the two per cent necessary to ensure the compensation scheme would break even.

"This is the right thing to do. This is what good industrial relations look like," the premier told reporters.

"Unions and businesses working closely together with government to ensure we get outcomes that both protect the interests of injured workers, but also protect the interests of business."

As part of the compromise, the government has agreed to a review of the compensation scheme, including a close analysis of what is happening in other states.

SA Unions State Secretary Dale Beasley said while the compromise deal was welcomed, such drastic cuts to worker entitlements should never have been proposed.

"There are stark lessons for the government here about why they need to engage meaningfully and early with workers on matters that impact them," he said.

"It's the voices of South Australian workers that have made the government see the flaws in their initial bill."

Mr Beasley said the commitment to a review was also a step in the right direction.

"Workers' compensation still needs significant work so that it is sustainable and looks after injured workers and we'll keep striving for improvements," he said.

"There's also significant work to be done to ensure workers are safer at work and avoid being injured in the first place."

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