Partially incapacitated nurses and midwives ‘punished’

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A NSWNMA analysis of the new workers compensation laws has found that they will punish partly incapacitated nurses and midwives, who cannot return to work or increase their hours even when it is completely beyond their control.

The new legislation allows insurers to deduct from weekly payments “the amount the worker is able to earn in suitable employment”.

This deduction can be made even if the nurse is unable to find suitable work or if her employer does not comply with their return to work obligations.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes says this will lead to grossly unfair consequences.

“The law will allow an insurer to reduce payments on the basis that an injured nurse in rural New South Wales would be able to move interstate to find employment,” he says.

The NSWNMA analysis found nurses will be disproportionately disadvantaged because, even if they have some capacity to work:

  • Job opportunities are limited in other occupations in the regional areas where there is a high concentration of nurses and midwives.
  • Nursing has an ageing workforce and it is more difficult for injured nurses and midwives to move into other occupations where they have limited experience.
  • If a partially incapacitated nurse or midwife has not been provided with work for an extended period of time, they risk losing their registration thereby inhibiting their ability to return to work.

Insurers now player and referee

In a submission to the state government about changes to workers compensation legislation, the NSWNMA found that “insurers are now effectively arbiters of weekly payment claims”. Insurers now have the capacity to decide:

  • A worker’s current capacity to work.
  • What constitutes suitable employment.
  • The amount a worker is able to earn in suitable employment.

Brett Holmes said the workers compensation Commission no longer had jurisdiction over such matters. “Insurers effectively decide for themselves what they pay an injured worker in weekly benefits.”