UNIONS WELCOME AMENDMENTS TO NT WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAWS
Territory unions have welcomed changes to the ‘Definition of Worker’ which finally brings the NT in line with workers’ compensation schemes in all other States, the Commonwealth and the Australian Capital Territory.
Unions NT President Heinz Schmitt said a parcel of reforms to the workers’ compensation scheme were passed in the Legislative Assembly during last week with some reforms taking close to 20 years to emerge.
The previous ‘definition of worker’ under the Act assisted some employers to provide and promote sham contracting arrangements which disenfranchised many workers in building and construction, property services, hospitality, horticulture, aquaculture, pastoral, retail, private sector nursing and other sectors of industry by denying them access to workers’ compensation insurance protection and injury benefits.
For close to 20 years the Northern Territory was the only Australian jurisdiction where these injustices occurred and were enshrined in sub-standard workers’ compensation legislation. The amendments introduce an Australian Tax Office based ‘results test’ process to determine if workers are or are not real independent contractors for the purposes of the scheme. The reforms will not impact on legitimate contractors and sub-contractors.
The ‘Definition of Worker’ amendment to the Workers’ Rehabilitation and Compensation Act will affect up to 9000 Territory ABN workers who are not contractors at all but will soon be able to access employer funded injury benefits for work-related injuries at a date yet to be set by the NT Government said Mr Schmitt.
Notably, the failure of the Country Liberal Party MLAs to support the ‘definition of worker’ reform will haunt some of those MLAs who hold marginal seats in the lead up to the 2012 August NT elections.
Mr Schmitt was adamant that NT unions will remind the community, workers and constituents of CLP MLAs, that the same MLAs enjoy access to the NT workers’ compensation scheme and related injury benefits which they have been prepared to deny for up to 9000 NT workers.
Other amendments to the Act included:
- limiting compensation benefits by injured workers to 208 weeks for workers who reside overseas.
- providing improved access to compensation for older workers who are injured (65 to 67 years).
- providing certainty of the types of benefits that can be taken into account in calculating normal weekly
earnings for compensation including the costs of food, board, lodging and electricity charges.
- interest rates payable on late payments of weekly compensation in line with the Supreme Court rate
- power for the Supreme Court to remit matters back to the Work Health Court in appropriate circumstances.
The reforms enjoy widespread NT industry support.
Mr Schmitt said that “CLP indifference to these amendments had forced the Bill to be tabled as an exposure draft in December 2011, a renewed public consultation period until February which delayed passage of the legislation to March 2012.”
For further information contact Heinz Schmitt on 8946 7231 or Mark Crossin at Unions NT on 8941 0001.
Published: 01 Apr 2012
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