Minister releases draft WR&C (Dispute Resolution) Amendment Bill for public comment

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Monday 29 November 2010

On Friday 26 November 2010, IR Minister Paul Holloway released the draft Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation (Dispute Resolution) Amendment Bill 2010 to stakeholders, including SISA, with an invitation to provide comments by 28 February 2011.

The purpose of the Bill is to:

1. Change the way that disputes under s.36 of the WRCA are handled and determined in the Tribunal.

2. Allow for limited restoration of weekly payments while a section 36 dispute is on foot.

3. Make some minor ‘tidy-up’ and consequential changes.

Key points of the Bill

The draft Bill would:

  • Repeal the powers of the WorkCover Ombudsman to restore weekly payments by suspending disputed section 36 determinations
  • Replace the current s.36(3) and its regulation setting out the required content of a s.36 notice with a new s.36(3) that would require determination notices to:
    • set out a statement of the decision
    • provide a reference to the provision of the Act (and, if relevant, the regulations) relied on to discontinue or reduce the weekly payments, and the text of the provision; and contain an outline of the evidence, facts and law relied on; and
    • inform the worker of the right to have the decision reviewed; and
    • contain such other information as the regulations may require
  • Create a new class of officer within the Tribunal – the Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO).
  • Allow Conciliation Officers to simultaneously act as DROs.
  • Require workers lodging notices of dispute of s.36 determinations to ‘…respond directly to the reasons for the relevant compensating authority's decision…’ (new s.90(2a)).
  • Require the Registrar of the Tribunal to review disputed s.36 notices to ensure that s.36(3) and s.90(2a) have been complied with, and:
  • If there are deficiencies under s.36(3), require the compensating authority to fix them; and then;
    • Allow the worker to make any consequential changes to the notice of dispute;
    • If the worker fails to comply with s.90(2a), strike out the notice of dispute;
    • On completion of the above review, refer the dispute to a DRO and immediately notify the parties.
  • On receipt of notice of completion of review from the Registrar, require the compensating authority to immediately reinstate weekly payments for a maximum of 28 days.
  • Require the DRO to:
    • Decide if a medical question forms all or part of the dispute; and
    • If so, refer the question to a Medical Panel; and
    • Not determine the dispute until the Panel’s decision is received.
    • Decide whether the dispute can be determined on the information to hand and if not, require parties to provide additional information.
    • Decide whether or not to have hearings and/or allow parties to appear.
  • Require Medical Panels to provide opinions on s.36 questions within 14 days.
  • Allow disputed decisions of DROs to be referred for judicial determination.
  • Exempt s.36 disputes from the operation of s.91 (initial reconsideration).

Click here to view the draft Bill

Click here to view the explanation of clauses