The legal decision in Return to Work Corporation of South Australia v Summerfield [2021] SASCFC 17 (Summerfield) has led to workers compensation legislation reform after the Supreme Court held that related injuries could be combined when calculating impairment ratings in Workers Compensation claims.

This decision enabled more injured workers to meet the impairment thresholds required for compensation entitlements than ever before. Although favourable for these injured workers, this has resulted in Return to Work SA (RTWSA) doubling their liability deficit to in excess of $1 billion and was leading to imminent increases in levies charged to employers that would have been the most expensive in the country at 2.2%.

The South Australian Government balanced the needs of injured workers with the imposition of unreasonable costs on businesses, risking job and wage growth, and a compromised Return to Work (Scheme Sustainability) Amendment Bill 2022 (Bill) was created and passed by parliament on 6 July 2022.

But what does this mean for you?

  1. The impairment threshold for an injured worker to be considered ‘seriously injured’ is increasing from 30% whole person impairment to 35% whole person impairment from 01.01.2023 (but the Summerfield decision is reflected meaning the impairment percentages of multiple related injuries can be combined).
  2. Injured workers with an impairment percentage of between 30% and 35% may be eligible for lump sum payments.
  3. Seriously injured’ workers will have the choice between weekly income maintenance payments until retirement age OR a single lump sum payment for their injuries from 17.10.2022.

So, while the ‘seriously injured’ impairment threshold has gone up (making it harder for workers to stay on the system if seriously injured); there has been a benefit to those seriously injured workers as they can now ‘opt out’ of the system and take a ‘lump sum’ for economic loss/redemption of their entitlements which previously they could not. Furthermore, the law is now solidified in respect to combination of injuries which provides some comfort to workers with multiple related injuries.

If you have a workplace injury and would like more information about your entitlements, contact Mahony’s Lawyers for assistance.