Adjournment debate – WorkCover

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Finance, and the action I seek is that the minister review the WorkCover system to ensure that it is not systematically rorted by those seeking to make dishonest claims. I have had representations from multiple employers in my electorate who have raised concerns with me that the current WorkCover system, which is designed to offer protection to workers, is currently easily and dishonestly manipulated by any individuals who may seek to misuse the system.

The worker in any business is absolutely imperative. You cannot run a business unless you have people that work with the management of that business. It is appropriate that we have a system such as WorkCover in place to protect workers and their families, should injuries occur during the course of their employment. I have run businesses and understand that employees are vital to a business. They worked with us to make our business successful and their role was valued and appreciated. Any employer who does not understand this will see their business fail. It is a basic concept. This symbiotic relationship and respect between employers and employees means that employees, families, businesses and the community are as a result stronger and we flourish as a society.

However, I am regularly being told by employers in my electorate that the WorkCover system does not encourage that mutual interaction required for business success. I have been given numerous examples of specific cases where the system is being rorted by dishonest individuals. The net result is a cost of millions of dollars to WorkCover’s liabilities and thousands of dollars in the cost of increased premiums for individual businesses.

In one example I was told that there was no evidence of the employee having lifted a heavy item that was said to have caused an injury. No injury was complained of or recorded at the time, and yet a claim was subsequently put in to WorkCover and accepted. Then just as a doctor was readying the employee to return to work a further complaint was lodged and the doctor was changed, beginning the process again. ‘Doctor shopping’ makes it possible for employees to move about until they get the medical certificate they seek, and the current WorkCover system seems powerless to prevent this.

There was another case described to me where independent medical investigators stated that an employee could return to work on light duties but another doctor still deemed the employee unfit. A return to work was enforced but the employee decided to go overseas. No leave was approved but the worker travelled anyway, with 28 days funded by WorkCover. One business also told me of many instances where social media shows staff doing far more than their medical plans indicate they are capable of, but the employer is frustrated because their insurer will not use that evidence to prove a fraudulent claim. Surely this is an area the minister’s department can look into.

These are just a few of the individual cases presented to me. It seems a compo culture has returned to Victoria. Fraudulent claims take away a business’s ability to make a margin, grow and employ more people. This has a flow-on effect on families and the community. Fraudulent claims also mean that there is less money available to pay for benefits for genuinely injured workers — the very people this system needs to protect — and less time for WorkCover to focus on supporting and assisting these workers.

Minister, a lax WorkCover system makes business and the community weaker — it affects us all. I ask the minister to ensure the WorkCover system is not being abused. I also ask the minister to put in place policies and procedures to ensure this is the case so that workers who have been genuinely injured can be looked after and businesses are not being burdened with the cost associated with disingenuous claims.