I commenced my employment with WorkCover the South Australian workers compensation authority on the 4th of October 1987 as a Claims Officer.
In March 1988 I was promoted to Senior Claims Officer. I had significant concerns with the definition of worker as set out in the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, 1987 (the Act) since I considered it to be too ambiguous. Having researched other Legislation and Acts I considered the definition of worker as set out in the Builders Licensing Act to be an appropriate definition. Ultimately the WorkCover Board at its November 1988 meeting adopted the said definition of worker for the purpose of the Act.
In 1991 I explored the similarity in symptomology of menopause and injury of middle aged female workers in the climacteric phase of their lives. I contemplated whether or not it was plausible that the symptoms of one masked the symptoms of the other. I devised a study in my own time to determine whether or not there was any correlation. I costed the study at $375,000:00 and recommended that I be taken off line for eighteen months to oversee the study. Extensive research was undertaken to determine whether such a link or study had been thought of or undertaken whether Nationally or Internationally. The research revealed that no such link or study had been undertaken anywhere what so ever. I was excited by the outcome and the prospect that such a study, I firmly believed, would place WorkCover not only at the leading edge of workers compensation matters Nationally but Internationally. Regrettably management decided not to undertake the study since such a study did not fit its core business function being that of managing workers compensation claims.
In 1993 when as a Technical Adviser I had significant concerns that WorkCover had applied an incorrect section of the Act to discontinue or reduce injured worker’s income maintenance payments. For simplicity at this stage I will only state the respective sections of the Act, they being sections 35 and 36. I considered the application of the provisions of section 35 in conjunction with section 36 was incorrect; that the provisions of section 38 should have been applied in conjunction with section 36. I expressed my concerns to my Supervisor and he agreed with my logic and reasoning and instructed a more senior case manager in the work group to apply the provisions of sections 38 and 36 conjunctively to discontinue and reduce injured workers’ income maintenance payments. During this time I was transferred to another work group and discussed the matter with my new Supervisor. He was uncomfortable with the strategy and reported me to the Claims Manager. I was soundly rebuked and cautioned by the Claims Manager and told such behaviour would not be tolerated and to never do any such thing ever again.
Interestingly in 1995 in the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia in the matter of Sosa v Mitsubishi the Judges found that all discontinuance and reduction notices issued by WorkCover prior to the said judgement were invalid. The reason for this being that WorkCover had incorrectly applied the provisions of section 35 to discontinue and reduce injured worker’s income maintenance payments. The provisions of section 35 specifically related to the calculation of income maintenance payments at significant mile stones through out the life of a claim. The Judges found that the provisions of section 38 should have been applied in conjunction with section 36 since the provisions of section 38 related to a workers increased capacity for work which would be reflected by an increase in earnings thereby permitting WorkCover to either discontinue or reduce an injured worker’s income maintenance payments.