Published: 17 November 2016
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas
Casual loading restored to weekly WorkCover compensation payments
Casual workers entitled to full hourly rate
Injured casual workers have had their right to full weekly benefits re-instated, effective from today.
The news was released following a meeting between representatives of the Victorian union movement and VWA CEO Clare Amies, following a decision by the Andrews Government to amend the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (Vic) (the WorkCover legislation).
The amendment will make it clear that casual workers are entitled to have the loadings associated with their casual employment included when their pre-injury average weekly earnings (‘PIAWE’) is calculated. Before today, injured casual workers’ PIAWEs were calculated only on a base rate of pay.
The decision is a significant win for injured casual workers who have not always been paid weekly payments of compensation reflecting what they were really earning pre-injury.
How benefits are calculated
All workers who require time off work or medical treatment because of an injury or work-related illness are paid a temporary weekly benefit until they are able to return to work. The amount paid to injured workers is calculated by claims managers on the basis of the average of what they had been earning over the 12 months prior to being injured, taking into account regular overtime, allowances and other benefits.
Casual workers were always vulnerable under this system because casual loadings were previously excluded in calculating the average weekly earnings. Some ethical employers continued to include loadings in their calculations; many did not.
The VWA has now instructed all of their authorised agents and self-insurers to restore casual loadings in the calculation of injured casual workers’ PIAWEs, and to apply back pay wherever applicable.
Why this decision is important to injured casual workers
Casual workers on a WorkCover benefit will now have their full benefit restored which means that, from now on their weekly payments should be higher.
Unions are accordingly being urged to review WorkCover Conciliation files to check if there are any injured workers, including those no longer receiving weekly payments, who may be "over-looked" by authorised agents and self-insurers, and therefore be at risk of not receiving back-pay at the correct PIAWE rate.
Those injured casual workers with ongoing Magistrates’ Court proceedings seeking to review the termination(s) and rejection(s) of claims ought to be careful when resolving any claims, ensuring today’s decision is taken into account. In the case of terminated claims, back pay may be immediately payable on weekly benefits already received prior to any termination.
Although legislation supporting the change is not expected to come before State Parliament until next year, the Andrews Government and the VWA have instructed their authorised agents and self-insurers to act now on the basis of the Government’s firm decision to amend the legislation.