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WorkCover continues to pay superannuation to injured workers

It had long been a source of frustration among injured workers that, having suffered the pain of an often job-ending workplace injury, they then had their Super suspended forever, with little prospect of adding to their retirement income.

One of the welcome, if often overlooked, changes made to compensation law requires WorkCover to continue paying superannuation to injured workers.

Under the Accident Compensation Act, WorkCover picks up the Super contributions of injured workers once they have been on weekly benefits for one year (52 weeks), and continues to pay them till the standard retirement age while the worker continues to receive a weekly payment from WorkCover.

This loophole has long been a major irritation, if not a source of anger, for workers. Faced with mounting medical bills, stonewalling by a company’s insurer, anxiety at home, and uncertainty about the future, workers then had their future superannuation payments stripped from them.

In the years that have followed this change to the law, I along with my fellow WorkCover experts at RCT Law, have found that the changes have eased the anxiety of workers in their late 40s and early 50s, who even though they may have responded well to rehabilitation, often faced a difficult task finding new employment. For these people especially, the prospect of being stuck on a disability pension for their rest of their lives with little prospect of having any excess cash for basic home maintenance, or to support their grandchildren, or maybe to buy a replacement car, and so on, had been a bleak and embittering experience.

How the WorkCover Super scheme works

Following the initial period of 52 weeks of receiving weekly payments, WorkCover or a self-insurer must continue to pay superannuation to the injured worker’s Super Fund, subject to it being a fund that complies with the Superannuation Act.

The employee must notify WorkCover or the self-Insurer of his or her tax file number and details of the fund into which the payments will continue to be made.

WorkCover must within 28 days of having become aware that it is liable to pay to a worker continuing Super payments, notify that worker in writing of these arrangements. As WorkCover Insurers regularly miss deadline dates, we highly recommend you follow up your insurer or contact your lawyer to ensure you are receiving your correct entitlements.

The rate at which the Super payments will continue must be expressed as a percentage figure in that notification.

The intent here is that the Super contributions reflect the minimum percentage required under the Commonwealth Government’s superannuation legislation, and so any future changes to that legislation should be reflected also in the rate of payment made to the injured worker.

There is typically a downside in any compensation legislation, and these amendments are no exception, and here is the rub. The Super arrangements are only effective for all claims made on or after 5 April 2011. Existing claims prior to this date miss out.

Despite this drawback, the law has significantly helped ease the financial stress that many injured workers suffer while stranded on a subsistence pension with little prospect of improving their financial standing.