The Victorian Government recently passed amendments to the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (Vic) (the WIRCA) to introduce a provisional payments scheme for workplace mental injuries – Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Provisional Payments) Bill 2020. The scheme is intended to apply to new claims lodged with the employer after its commencement.
The Explanatory Memorandum states that “the Bill aims to provide access to payments for treatment and support to workers and eligible volunteers with a mental injury, to promote improved recovery and return to work outcomes”.
Some of the amendments introduced in the bill are as follows:
- the cost of reasonable medical and like services to be paid for 13 weeks after the worker is determined to be entitled to provisional payments. Weekly payments are not payable
- the employer is to notify the Authority of a mental injury claim within 3 business days of receiving the claim from the worker. It is an offence should an employer not comply with this timeframe
- the Authority is to notify the worker of their entitlement to provisional payments within 2 business days of receiving the claim for compensation or notification of a mental injury claim
- a self-insurer is to notify a worker of their entitlement to provision payments within 5 business days of receiving a claim for compensation or being notified of a mental injury in relation to an existing claim
- the Authority or self-insurer may not recover provisional payments from a worker if they are found to be ineligible for provisional payments after receiving payments, except if the payments are obtained fraudulently
- provisional payments will cease if the claim for compensation is accepted as the worker will have a general entitlement to reasonable medical and like expenses pursuant to the WIRCA
- if the worker’s claim for compensation is not accepted, the worker’s provisional payments will continue for the full 13 weeks.
- provisional payments are not an admission of liability to pay compensation under the WIRCA
- the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service will also be available for disputes relating to provisional payments. Provisional payment dispute will not be permitted to bypass the conciliation process.
The amending legislation is expected to commence on a day to be proclaimed, or on 1 January 2022 if not before that day.
The scheme will provide workers with early access to medical treatment without the delays many injured workers presently experience.
We welcome the introduction of the scheme and are hopeful that with early medical intervention and support, workers with a mental injury will recover and restore their lives to preinjury status.
Our team of lawyers are available to help people who have sustained mental health injuries at work. Contact us on (03) 9321 9988.