Comcare payments near $1 Billion. Comcare makes first time loss.

Posted on January 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article was posted recently on  Comcare has recorded the first ever loss to its insurance scheme with a 2011-2012 deficit of close to half a billion dollars.  It is unsurprising that approximately half of all psychological injury claims relate to workplace bullying..  It is quite interesting to note that nowhere in the article does Comcare accept responsibility in any part from the result, instead preferring to suggest that a major factor is the increasing length of time (read expense) in rehabilitating injured employees.

Drat those injured employees!  Why can’t they just be less…..well, injured?

Some of the reasons not disclosed in the article also having a significant impact on the spike in insurance premiums experienced by the scheme include:

– Comcare’s aggressive and argumentative attitude towards injured federal employees who seek the assistance. 

How many cases have needlessly been escalated to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where it is reasonable foreseen that  Comcare bears liability?  How much money does Comcare spend on legal representation during these proceedings.  One would suggest in a number of cases that it would significantly exceed Comcare’s immediate liability.

– Comcare’s failure to take a strong stance on workplace bullying

How many organisations has Comcare prosecuted in relation to endemic workplace bullying cultures?  If there are no ramifications for poor behaviour then there is absolutely zero impetus to change that behaviour.  Comcare have been aware of the allegations of systemic bullying within the CSIRO for more than a decade and short of issuing a piece of paper that will be ignored (as we have already witnessed), have done nothing t0 address the toxic workplace culture of many of its scheme members.  Comcare have consistently ignored complaints for far too long using the flimsy excuse that “xxx has policies for that”.  It has been identified that CSIRO has failed to properly and equitably implement its own workplace policies resulting in the issuing of Improvement Notices and despite this, our members continue to report that even as recently as a week ago, their complaints have been dismissed with much the same response.  At least give us the benefit of coming up with some new excuses for why you will still not investigate allegations of workplace bullying, particularly after you have publicly admitted that the CSIRO had inadequate policies to deal with workplace bullying issues after spending years turning away countless complaints based upon this flimsy excuse.

– Comcare’s failure to ensure rehabilitation is properly conducted

Despite identifying failures of its scheme contributors to properly rehabilitate injured workers, Comcare have failed to address these shortcomings.  It is unsurprising that the cost of rehabilitation is sky-rocketing.  One of our members reports that Comcare ignored their complaints for over 4 years about the injured workers employee failing to provide adequate rehabilitation and are demanding to know why the injured worker will never return to pre-injury capacity.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that a) if workplace bullying remains unaddressed, and b) the proper support is not provided to victims of workplace bullying then c) the cost of rehabilitation of injured employees is going to skyrocket.  It is also highly reprehensible to suggest that a greater number of employees “jumping on the bandwagon” and submitting psychological stress claims is the main reason for a spike in premiums.  Drat those injured workers!

Comcare may also care to address the adversarial hoops through which injured workers must jump in order to have their claims legitimised. In all too many cases the injury sustained as a result of having to endure the humiliating Comcare processes is far greater than the initial injury sustained.

The article:

COMPENSATION costs for stressed and injured federal public servants have doubled in a year to nearly $1 billion.

Comcare, the Federal Government’s workplace compensation insurer, has recorded its first loss, a $564 million for 2011-12.

It blames the blow-out on a surge in claims and public servants “not recovering as quickly as they should”.

The effect of lower interest rates on earnings and higher forecasts for inflation also contributed.

Comcare has been dealing with a rash of controversial compo claims, many for bullying and “adjustment disorder”, a type of psychological injury due to work-related stress.

It will announce today its High Court appeal against a Federal Court order that it pay compensation to a public servant injured during sex in her motel room while on a business trip.

The case will set a national legal precedent, drawing the line between injuries sustained at work and in private.

Comcare’s latest annual report reveals the cost of ongoing workers’ compensation claims soared from $459 million in 2011 to $994 million last year.

The government-owned agency will increase premiums by 25 per cent this year to try to claw back the $564 million loss.

Comcare’s acting chief executive, Cathy Skippington, said yesterday the record $994 million expense included the “estimated future costs of claims or liabilities”.

“These increased due to economic factors and because some injured workers are taking longer to get back to work,” she said.

“As a result, we’ve had to increase our scheme premium rates substantially to return the scheme, over time, to a fully funded position.”

A Comcare spokesman said the operating loss would have “no fiscal or cash impact on the Government’s Budget”.

But government departments and agencies will have to find the money to pay higher premiums for their workers’ compensation coverage, which has jumped to 1.77 per cent of payroll costs this financial year.

Ms Skippington said Comcare had dealt with a “moderate increase” in mental health claims during 2012.

“People are much more aware of bullying now and the fact they don’t have to put up with it,” she said.

Mental health claims made up 8 per cent of Comcare claims during 2011-12, with bullying accounting for nearly half the mental stress cases.

Three in every four claims related to “body stressing”, with 15 per cent caused by slips, trips and falls.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has ordered a review of the government’s snowballing Comcare scheme.

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