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WorkCover NSW extends premium reforms to large employers

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Some medium and large employers are promised reduced workers’ compensation premiums under a WorkCover NSW scheme beginning on June 30.

The program extends earlier reforms for small businesses.

“Importantly, our new approach rewards employers that value and promote worker safety,” WorkCover NSW CEO Vivek Bhatia said.

He says about 14,200 medium and large businesses – making up 4% of employers but covering 75% of the state’s workers – will soon receive simpler user guides to the new risk-rated renewal process.

The guides include new annual premium renewal forms.

However, a leading insurance industry figure has labelled the rollout as unfair, because it is so close to the end of the financial year.

Richard Gilley, director of NSW risk advisory company RiskNet, says some employers in higher-risk industries such as agriculture, construction and transport may be hit by large premium increases.

“The Government uses the term ‘risk-rated’, which is a euphemism for clobbering employers with a bad claims experience,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

He says details of the risk-rated system are unclear and employers have no idea how much to put aside for workers’ compensation in their new financial year accounts.

WorkCover NSW denies the claims.

“High-risk industries will not be at risk under the new premium model,” a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Premiums will use the average performance premium as a starting point ­– not the wages as used previously – within the claims assessment to ensure all industries are on a level playing field.”

The reform program appears to have received early support from the industry, with one major insurer telling brokers: “This is the most significant reform the state has seen in relation to premium rating methodology, which has remained largely unchanged since 1987.”

The spokesman says WorkCover Insurance has consulted with brokers and industry on the changes, which were first announced in January.

WorkCover NSW says June 5 is the expected release date for the new insurance premiums order.

“As such we are unable to provide premium projections based on these legislative reforms.”

The model introduces three years of claims history for annual risk assessment, to be used for both renewal and actual wages adjustment at the end of the term, WorkCover NSW says.

The new premium model includes an employer safety incentive together with an employer safety reward. A new return-to-work incentive scheme now applies to medium and larger employers, which receive a 15% discount on claims lodged after June 30 if they return staff to work within 13 weeks, a 10% discount for returns from 13-25 weeks and a 5% discount for 26-52 weeks.

Reforms for small businesses in 2013 have brought a 15% fall in claims and injuries, and a 5% improvement in return rates, WorkCover NSW says. Paperwork has been cut by half and disputes and appeals “dramatically reduced”.

WorkCover NSW and agent insurers such as QBE will hold information sessions on the reforms in the next few months.