Susan (Sue) Weston PSM
Chief Executive Officer, Comcare
As the CEO and sole director of Comcare, I am pleased to present Comcare’s Annual Report to the Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon Christian Porter MP, and the Australian Parliament on the performance of Comcare for the year ended 30 June 2019.
Since joining Comcare in April 2019 and considering the agency’s work in the 2018–19 financial year, several key themes have emerged.
Comcare performs its role as the national workers’ compensation and work health and safety authority in an environment of constant change. Workplaces are changing, and community expectations are shifting. We are developing strategies that position us to navigate social, cultural and technological challenges that lie ahead.
This year, five new public sector agencies joined the Comcare scheme under the Safety,Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) and the Australian National University and the ACT Government became self-insured licensees. DHL Express (Australia) Pty Ltd has also joined the scheme as a new self-insured licensee. These changes have resulted in the SRC Act workers’ compensation scheme profile shifting to over half of the 396,440 full-time equivalent employees (FTE) covered by the scheme being in licensee organisations (214,166) at the end of 2018–19.
Comcare is delivering a national scheme which is demonstrating that it is not only outcome focused and cost effective but also committed to reducing administrative burden and making it easier for employees and employers working nationally.
As the federal work health and safety (WHS) regulator, Comcare has engaged with Safe Work Australia’s review of the model WHS Laws and we have closely monitored reviews of comparable WHS regulators in other jurisdictions. At the end of 2018–19, FTE employees covered under the federal Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) had grown to 416,556, with over half (248,053) in public sector organisations.
As part of the Australian Government’s decentralisation agenda, Comcare will add to its regional footprint and welcomes the opportunity to establish a presence in both Launceston and Darwin in the next financial year.
Comcare has made significant improvements in recent years and our scheme remains financially sound. We have delivered average premium rates at 0.85 per cent, representing one of the most affordable schemes in the country, while maintaining compensation and rehabilitation benefits to support injured employees. The scheme funding ratio of 131 per cent is above our target range of 100–110 per cent. We are now focused on ensuring longer term scheme viability and sustainability.
Comcare’s WHS regulatory response to fatalities and serious incidents remains the key priority for our regulatory and leadership teams. Our focus has been on building our regulatory intelligence and increasing our proactive regulatory presence working with employers to target areas of greatest risk to safe and healthy workplaces.
Through much of this year, Comcare has also been looking at ways to improve its claims management service, including considering how we can better engage with employers and employees and by conducting pilots in key areas which are informed by contemporary research. An example of this has been the operation of delegated claims arrangements for two non-corporate Commonwealth entities with good results. In this model, employees of these agencies are delegated Comcare powers with support from third-party claims management providers contracted by Comcare.
Comcare has also been working to strengthen our research and innovation capability through a strategy to enhance knowledge of current and emerging trends that could influence the future of workers’ compensation and health and safety regulation. We have been partnering with industry experts like Beyond Blue and a number of universities and industry specialists to pilot initiatives in the areas of early intervention, mental health and workplace lead indicators relating to psychological injury. We have progressed our involvement in the Collaborative Partnership to improve work participation which sees Comcare working with partners across multiple Australian disability and injury income systems.
The make-up of the Comcare scheme and the variety of work undertaken by both premium payers and self-insured licensees is significant and affirms the importance for Comcare to engage widely and further review and innovate our practices.
This year has been a time for Comcare to consider how best to work with our clients and stakeholders so that we can realise the opportunity to improve workplace outcomes.
Significant work has progressed in developing a digital strategy and roadmap to enhance our data and analytics capability. Implementation of the strategy will begin over the next year, initially focusing on WHS inspections and licensing. Enhancing our education and engagement approach and services to our jurisdiction is another area where we have been building our capability and increasing our reach by developing digital and evidenced-based education products.
In the coming year Comcare will be exploring new and innovative approaches to preventing harm and building physically and mentally safe and healthy workplaces. We will look to expand and evaluate pilots and other proactive initiatives that support workers’ timely, safe and durable return to work from injury or illness.
Comcare will continue to collaborate with our stakeholders to improve our service offering and streamline our processes and ways of operating to achieve progressively higher standards of work health and safety.