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SA Labor Government’s attack on injured workers

It was with great shock and disappointment that not two months into a state Labor government—the same government which promised to be pro-worker and be transparent and consultative—that I write to you about their plan to undermine both these principles.

The concepts around WorkCover and Return to Work Legislation are not simple nor interesting, but it is important to summarise first:

  • Currently, if you get injured at work and it results in a serious ongoing impairment to your whole person of 30% or greater, then you may receive a lump sum payment and ongoing income support payments.
  • If your injury falls under the threshold of 30% then income support payments cease after two years and you may receive a percentage lump sum payment.
  • If your injury falls under a 5% threshold there is no entitlement to lump sum payment, you will receive income payments and medical expenses only.


You may have heard of The Summerfield Matter

The Summerfield Matter was a decision of the courts that Return to Work South Australia (RTWSA) repeatedly appealed and lost, all the way to the Supreme Court.

The outcome of this matter meant that the Return to Work Act was correctly interpreted where persons with multiple injuries from the same cause are considered together when assessing compensation.

  • The state Labor government wants to undo this true and proper application of the law.
  • The RTWSA Board is threatening the government with a levy increase to businesses.
  • This could affect you, your colleagues, your family or your friends.


How could this affect injured workers?

Consider this example. If a worker falls at work and severely injures a knee, this might equate to a 17% impairment.

As a result of the knee injury they develop a hip injury, and it is assessed as being 14% impairment.

The injured worker is unable to work in any capacity after being treated as the injury is unlikely to improve in the future, leaving the worker with reduced capacity.

Currently, both injuries would be considered together as the injuries came from the same cause. Combined, they are above the 30% threshold and the injured worker would get ongoing payments.

The state government’s intended change would mean worker’s injuries will NOT be considered together, they will be considered as two separate injuries and the injured worker would only get payments for the first two years.

If the worker’s injuries prevent them for working in any capacity in the future, they could be forced into poverty as a result of not receiving ongoing payments per current entitlements.

What the IEU, other Unions, and doctors and lawyers who work in this field are asking is:

  • Consultation with everyone affected by the system.
  • That decisions are not made behind closed doors by an unelected RTWSA board.
  • That we need a societal discussion about workers compensation, rather than making injured workers pay for their budget gaps.
  • For an independent actuarial review of RTWSA’s figures.
  • A full review of the Return to Work system.

The IEU in conjunction with SA Unions will be looking at all options to ensure that injured workers have a supported, decent life.

Further coordinated action is planned.

If you have concerns about how this affects you or need further information, please contact our office on 8410 0122 or

Yours in solidarity

Tim Oosterbaan
Deputy Secretary