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Taxpayers left with $100m Comcare compo bill

Taxpayers have been left with a bill of nearly $100 million in the past year as the cost of public service workers' compensation claims continues to climb.

Federal government workplace insurer Comcare will unveil a $98 million loss in its annual report, blaming more psychological claims in public service workplaces and "injured" bureaucrats staying off work longer.

The scheme's long-term liability for payouts is now more than $2.6 billion, with more than 30 per cent of it unfunded, and last year's horror losses of more than half a billion dollars have been revised upward to a book loss of $670 million after changes to accounting practices.

Federal departments and agencies had to find an extra $70 million for workers compensation premiums in 2012-2013 and are looking at another 18 per cent increase in 2013-2014 as Comcare tries to fund its long-term liabilities.

Despite Comcare's win in the High Court on Wednesday against a public servant claiming compensation for injuries sustained while having sex, the results look set to intensify the momentum for reform to public sector workers' compensation.

Despite accepting fewer claims in 2012-2013 than the previous year, the cost of payouts, including medical, legal and other overheads, grew by nearly $40 million to $360 million in 2012-2013.

Comcare chief executive Paul O'Connor, in his foreword to the report, said the stay-away rate and growing numbers of public sector psyche claims were to blame for the scheme's continued financial woes.

"Psychological injury costs continue to rise and the length of time ill or injured people are away from their work has worsened at public sector workplaces," Mr O'Connor wrote.

In March a review of the scheme ordered by previous Labor Government ordered a review urged sweeping reform to cut down on dubious claims for psychological injuries, payouts for dodgy therapies, doctor shopping and outright fraud.

The review made more than 147 recommendations to rewrite the legislation on federal public sector compensation claims with the aim of getting injured bureaucrats back to work and ending their "passive" reliance on compensation.

But legislation to implement changes has stalled with the change of government.

28 comments so far

  • Well why doesn't that surprise me. Lot of people are unsure of their jobs. Bullying and harassment is alive and well contrary to what dept's tell you.
    The whole country's going down the toilet. What do you expect with these political leaders. More work, less time, less staff etc

    Commenter
    Truth
    Date and time
    October 31, 2013, 3:33PM
    • I would love to tell you which public service job I was with before being self employed! I think it depends on the companies attitude towards work place safety. Being in the public service is not a one for all across the board.. each section has the entitlement of creating it's own workplace culture and safety to line up with the requirements of the Government. Where I used to work safety was stressed day in day out. Mind you I was in the office but since our area consisted of a much broader scale to every single Australian on a daily basis there were employees that were in more of a danger in having accidents than our areas within the office. The culture was the same across the board.. our CEO doesn't care if you work front line or office it was the same workplace safety strategy. Reports falling of compensation claims due to the training of putting safety first. We hardly had compensation claims because of the work safety culture. So it really comes down to whos in charge of what part of the public sector. This report generalizes public sector workers not the divisions. That is not to say where I worked was all fine and dandy. The Union had complete control due to the nature of staff complaints of internal discrimination and bullying and unreasonable KPI's. Glad I left! I have not mentioned any personal name or company name for this comment. (my personal disclosure statement) lol Being free man was the best thing I could do and I won't be looking back.

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 6:21AM
    • Australia has one of the smallest public services in the OECD 28% of workforce compared to the average of 35%. We continue to ask more from less then wonder why stress levels are on the rise. Every time there is a new coalition government they are constantly being harangued about loosing their jobs with no recognition of their work. It's a popular Australian pastime to belittle these people, but then we do love to belittle everyone who doesn't do the same job as us. The only part of government that seems to continually increase in numbers is those employed to work for our politicians. Maybe in fairness we cut those as well, especially the bloated numbers working for current governments.

      Commenter
      AnneO
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 8:19AM
    • Mind you... before I left they failed to ask me to complete their statement of none disclosure because I just left without notice... There was nothing in my contract at the start of my employment stating what I had to do at the end when I left... hmmmm maybe I should bring them down? Awwww the media would love that. So would my friends there... I am sorry for them and I hope they stick up for their rights to be honest.

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:16AM
  • How about we nationalise the whole Workers Comp system. It is not just the Commonwealth system that is suffering but all the Workers Compensation systems.

    Commenter
    OnCompo
    Date and time
    October 31, 2013, 3:43PM
    • OnCompo you are right, our Queensland work cover is the best in Australia, annually returning big profits to the Queensland treasury now Campbell (2 Tunnels) Newman is beginning to tinker with something that works very well, so copy it while it still works!

      Commenter
      VonBB
      Location
      Clivesland
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:48AM
    • VonBB totally agree. As an employer across multiple states the Queensland one was the best until like you said they started tinkering with it. The thin edge of the wedge was not being able to ask for a workers comp certificate before employing someone. Before others complain... if an employee is a constant risk to your self and other coworkers I have a duty of care not to employ you but this cannot be determined without knowing the employees workers compensation history. As a trade off perhaps employers should also reveal their (but they do pay for poor safety through increased premiums).

      Commenter
      JazzyJeff
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 3:57PM
  • And so rather than address the underlying causation of psychological injury in the PS (long hours, insufficient resources and poor management) the coalition government will spring to the populist view that those who go off on medically diagnosed stress are just malingerers. After all workers compensation stress related injury doesn't occur in the private sector .....or does it?

    Commenter
    Ophelia Knobbs
    Date and time
    October 31, 2013, 4:01PM
    • Not to the same extent as it does in the public service, no. It's a fact.

      When the person who works next to me and takes almost all 20 of her personal leave days off every year due to: cold, sick, car accident, kid sick, husband sick so has to take sick kid to hospital, another car accident, storm damage, bad back, migraine, sick, kid sick again..and drunkenly tells me that's she's entitled to those days, I can see why....

      Commenter
      Kambah
      Location
      Kambah
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 7:18AM
    • Ophelia, you are obviously trying to sort this issue using common sense - this is not welcome in the workplace. What? Address underlying causes? That would mean a lot of public service Managers having to sack themselves! I have first hand experience of the incompetence and buck passing that can cause injury in the workplace. As it was, I had to employ bully tactics to get appropriate treatment! It was the only language they understood or responded to.
      The new PS values acronym to I CARE. Where I once worked, when something went wrong we all had to CARE (Cover A*se Retain Employment).
      In the private sector, if stress-related injury looks like it may occur or cause a claim, that person is sacked for some other reason!
      Of course, that is not always the case, and a Manager worth their salt looks after their staff, ensuring the right approach is taken to prevent a problem in the first place. Fortunately, this does happen, just not all the time.

      Commenter
      HairyDave
      Location
      Aus
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 8:20AM

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