Go to top of page

Chapter Two: Annual Performance statements

Overview

Introductory statement

I, Susan Weston, as the Chief Executive Officer of Comcare (sole director), present the 2018–19 annual performance statements of Comcare, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). In my opinion, these annual performance statements are based on properly maintained records, accurately reflect the performance of Comcare and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

Signature of Comcare CEO, Sue Weston

Our performance

Comcare’s efforts are driven to achieve our strategic outcome—support participation and productivity through healthy and safe workplaces that minimise the impact of harm.

The performance results in this chapter convey how Comcare measures our success against our five strategic priorities and purposes. We are committed to improving our performance and set ambitious targets to achieve our outcome. An overview of our 2018–19 Corporate Plan results is provided in the table below. We achieved 78 per cent of the performance targets that we set for the year. Further details are provided in the following sections, including actions taken to address the five performance measures where we did not achieve the set targets.

Table 7: 2018–19 Corporate Plan results summary

Performance criterion

Target

Result

Status

Leader workers’ compensation insurer

The insured scheme continues to be fully funded

100–110 per cent

131 per cent

Achieved

The average Commonwealth premium rate reduces to 1.1 per cent of payroll (excluding GST) by 2018–19

Average Commonwealth premium rate = 1.1 per cent of payroll

0.85 per cent

Achieved

Reduce the insured scheme liability to ensure the scheme remains financially sustainable

Scheme liability is

$1.9 billion or less by

30 June 2019

$1.665 billion at

30 June 2019

Achieved

Claims administration cost as a ratio of all claims expenses is 20 per cent or lower for each injury year

Administrative cost ratio is 20 per cent or lower

19.8 per cent at

30 June 2019

Achieved

Increase—the proportion of employees who have returned to work, measured by duration of incapacity benefits, to facilitate recovery and reduce liability

13 wks: 76 per cent

26 wks: 84 per cent

78 wks: 92 per cent

13 weeks: 64 per cent

26 weeks: 77 per cent

78 weeks: 89 per cent

Not achieved

A sustained high level of satisfaction and engagement with the services provided, measured by survey, to ensure services are appropriate, responsive and relevant

A stakeholder rating of 82 per cent or more for services provided to the Fund

70 per cent from employers and 72 per cent from employees

Not achieved

Timeliness of claims resolution (i.e. percentage of primary asbestos claims resolved within 180 calendar days)

80 per cent

58 per cent

Not achieved

Third party recovery rate (i.e. percentage of the value of asbestos claims settlements recovered from third parties)

10 per cent

37 per cent

Achieved

Effective national regulator

Our proactive regulatory reach is extended to all entities in our scheme, to further our breadth of activities both in cities and remote workplaces, and ensure we have increased the number of active relationships and entities

Regulator interaction with 100 per cent of entities in our scheme

100 per cent

Achieved

Our approach improves WHS outcomes in workplaces, measured by increased knowledge, awareness and compliance to ensure regulatory intervention makes a positive difference

80 per cent of surveyed workplaces have improved WHS outcomes following regulatory intervention

86 per cent

Achieved

A sustained high level of satisfaction and engagement with services provided, measured by survey, to ensure regulatory actions are appropriate, responsive and relevant

Satisfaction rating of 85 per cent or more

95 per cent

Achieved

Excellence in scheme design and management

Return to work rates developed through the existing biennial National Return to Work Survey indicating the rehabilitation outcomes achieved

Comcare scheme return to work rate = 95 per cent

94 per cent (2017–18 result)

Not achieved

Improve the financial sustainability of the scheme measured by notional premium rate

Comcare scheme notional premium rate = 1.12 per cent

0.87 per cent

Achieved

Better practice scheme management assessed through qualitative review

Qualitative evaluation of scheme management identifies the adoption/promotion of better practice

Achieved

Achieved

SRCC satisfaction of support provided by Comcare

Qualitative evaluation using structured services and feedback from the Chair

Achieved

Achieved

Seacare Authority satisfaction of support provided by Comcare

Qualitative evaluation using structured services and feedback from the Chair

Achieved

Achieved

Efficient and effective operations

Increased satisfaction with corporate services measured through responses to a survey conducted annually

85 per cent satisfaction rate

Two internal corporate services satisfaction surveys were held in
2018–19 with the first meeting the target of 85 per cent satisfaction and the second exceeding the target with a 96 per cent satisfaction rate

Achieved

Maintain employee levels of engagement which are higher than those in similar sized agencies, measured through ratings on the leadership category questions in the Australian Public Service (APS) employee census

Comcare employees rate their:

· job engagement at higher than 7.5

Comcare employees rated their:

· job engagement at 7.4

Not achieved

· team engagement at higher than 7.2

· team engagement at 7.1

· supervisor engagement at higher than 7.9

· supervisor engagement at 7.8

· agency engagement at higher than 6.4

· agency engagement at 6.1

· collaboration between groups at higher than 55 per cent

· collaboration between groups at 56 per cent

· agency innovation at higher than 70 per cent

· agency innovation at 66 per cent

Comcare employees have the knowledge and skills to meet operational needs, measured through results of the APS employee census

90 per cent of employees indicate that they have the skills and knowledge to undertake their job

95 per cent

Achieved

Comcare’s workers’ compensation premium is maintained, achieved through improving:

· injury and harm levels

· recovery and early return to work rates of Comcare employees

Comcare’s workers’ compensation premium is 2.1 per cent or less

1.67 per cent

Achieved

Drive innovation and better practice for the schemes

Evidence-based new or improved programmes, services and/or products introduced for Comcare and scheme participants

Six active initiatives that address scheme challenges and emerging issues

1. NewAccess program

2. Early intervention service provider pilot

3. Mental health community of practice

4. Clinical guidelines for work-related mental health conditions in general practice

5. National mentally healthy workplace alliance

6. Lead indicators

7. Comcare e-certificate of capacity

8. National certificate of capacity

Achieved

Demonstrated cross-sector national collaboration

Four active cross-sector initiatives co-designed and established

1. Collaborative partnership cross-sector project

2. Employer mobilisation report

3. GP support project

4. Employee awareness project

Achieved

Comcare has a strategic research plan that informs better practice across the scheme

Strategic research plan established to support the scheme needs

Executive approved Comcare Research Plan 20182022

Achieved

The following table demonstrates the links between the Comcare 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements and the Comcare 2018–2022 Corporate Plan. This performance information provides the basis for Comcare’s performance framework.

Table 8: Links between the Corporate Plan and the PBS components 2018–19

Corporate Plan performance measure

PBS component

The leading workers’ compensation insurer

1.4—Premium claims

1.5—Pre-premium claims

1.6—Asbestos claims

The insured scheme continues to be fully funded.

The average Commonwealth premium rate reduces to 1.1 per cent of payroll (excluding GST) for the 2018–19 premium year, to ensure the scheme remains financially sustainable.

Reduce the insured scheme liability to ensure the scheme remains financially sustainable.

That claims administration cost as a ratio of all claims expenses is 20 per cent or lower for each injury year, measured by Safe Work Australia’s comparative performance monitoring methodology, to ensure cost effective management of the fund.

Increase the proportion of employees who have returned to work, measured by duration on incapacity benefits, to facilitate recovery and reduce liability.

A sustained high level of satisfaction and engagement with the services provided, measured by survey, to ensure services are appropriate, responsive and relevant.

Effective national regulator

1.1—Work health, safety and rehabilitation regulation

Our proactive regulatory reach is extended to all entities in our scheme, to further our breadth of activities both in cities and remote workplaces and ensure we have increased the number of active relationships with entities.

Our approach improves work health and safety outcomes in workplaces, measured by increased knowledge, awareness and compliance to ensure regulatory intervention makes a positive difference.

A sustained high level of satisfaction and engagement with services provided, measured by survey, to ensure regulatory actions are appropriate, responsive and relevant.

Excellence in scheme design and management

1.2—Comcare workers’ compensation scheme management

1.3—SRCC and Seacare Authority support

Return to work rates developed through the existing biennial Return to Work Survey indicating the rehabilitation outcomes achieved.

Improve the financial sustainability of the scheme measured by notional premium rate.

Better practice scheme management assessed through qualitative review.

Efficient and effective operations

Supports and contributes to the outcomes of all components

Increased satisfaction with corporate services measured through responses to a survey conducted annually.

Maintain employee levels of engagement which are higher than those in similar sized agencies, measured through ratings on the leadership category questions in the APSC employee census.

Comcare employees have the knowledge and skills to meet operational needs, measured through the APSC employee census results.

Comcare’s workers’ compensation premium is maintained, achieved through improving:

· injury and harm levels

· recovery and early return to work rates of Comcare employees.

Drive innovation and better practice for the schemes

Evidence-based new or improved programs, services and/or products introduced for Comcare and scheme participants.

Demonstrated cross-sector national collaboration.

Comcare has a strategic research plan that informs better practice across the scheme.

Strategic priority: Leading workers’ compensation insurer

Purpose: Working with employees and employers to minimise the impact of harm in workplaces, support recovery at and return to work, and deliver sustainable management of the fund.

Result against performance criterion

Performance criterion

Target

Source

The insured scheme continues to be fully funded

100-110 per cent

PBS component 1.4

Corporate Plan

Result131 per cent (2017–18 result—116 per cent)

The improved funding ratio is driven by a $111.5 million (6 per cent) reduction in liabilities reflecting an ongoing lower volume of new claims and reduced duration of incapacity and medical payments.

The average Commonwealth premium rate reduces to 1.1 per cent of payroll (excluding GST) by 2018–19, to ensure the scheme remains financially sustainable

Average Commonwealth premium rate = 1.1 per cent of payroll

PBS component 1.4

Corporate Plan

Result0.85 per cent (2017–18 result—1.06 per cent)

The decrease in the premium rate since 2018–19 is driven by an ongoing lower volume of new claims and reduced duration of incapacity and medical payments, and improvements in the scheme’s funding position.

Reduce the insured scheme liability to ensure the scheme remains financially sustainable

Scheme liability is $1.9 billion or less by 30 June 2019

PBS component 1.4

Corporate Plan

Result$1.665 billion at 30 June 2019 (2017–18 result—$2.192 billion)

The reduction in the liability since 30 June 2018 is due to two employers exiting the Comcare insured scheme and commencing self-insurance arrangements and a reduction in liabilities for the remaining claim portfolio reflecting favourable ongoing claims experience.

That claims administration cost as a ratio of all claims expenses is 20 per cent or lower for each injury year, measured by Safe Work Australia’s comparative performance monitoring methodology, to ensure cost effective management of the fund.

Administrative cost ratio is 20 per cent or lower

PBS component 1.4 and 1.5

Corporate Plan

Result19.8 per cent at 30 June 2019 (2017–18 result—18.5 per cent)

The result continued to be less than Comcare's target of twenty per cent.

Increase the proportion of employees who have returned to work, measured by duration of incapacity benefits, to facilitate recovery and reduce liability

13 wks: 76 per cent

26 wks: 84 per cent

78 wks: 92 per cent

PBS component 1.4

Corporate Plan

ResultDid not achieve targets

13 weeks: 64 per cent; 12 per cent below target (2017–18 result—66 per cent)

26 weeks: 77 per cent; 7 per cent below target (2017–18 result—76 per cent)

78 weeks: 89 per cent; 3 per cent below target (2017–18 result—91 per cent)

The proportion of employees who have returned to work, measured by duration of incapacity benefits, has not achieved the Corporate Plan targets across the 13, 26 and 78 weeks measures 2018–19.

A sustained high level of satisfaction and engagement with the services provided, measured by survey, to ensure services are appropriate, responsive and relevant

A stakeholder rating of 82 per cent or more for services provided to the Fund

PBS component 1.4

Corporate Plan

Results70 per cent from employers and 72 per cent from employees

(2017–18 results—68 per cent from employers and 72 per cent from employees)

Comcare’s mechanisms for measuring the service provided to stakeholders are via an online survey with Australian Public Service (APS) employers and the National Return to Work (RTW) telephone survey with employees.

· In 2018–19 70 per cent (N=138) of employers reported satisfaction with the services received from Comcare staff which is 12 per cent below the target of 82 per cent or more.

· This result is from the 2018-19 Employer Survey conducted with Australian Public Service (APS) employers in April/May 2019. Employer satisfaction with the service received from Comcare has increased from 68 per cent in 2017–18 and is largely driven by improved perceptions regarding Comcare staff ’advising employers about their rights‘ and ’listening to their point of view‘.

· In 2017–18 72 per cent (N=301) of employees indicated satisfaction with the services received from Comcare staff which is 10 per cent below the target of 82 per cent or more.

· As the National Return to Work (NRTW) Survey is conducted biennially, and not in 2018–19, last years’ survey results from the NRTW Survey are used as the 2018–19 result.

Asbestos Claims – PBS Component 1.6

Timeliness of claims resolution (i.e. percentage of primary asbestos claims resolved within 180 calendar days)

80 per cent

PBS component 1.6

Result58 per cent (2017–18 result—65 per cent)

Comcare completed all necessary determinations and actions for asbestos claims received to be settled promptly. However, due to the nature of the injuries involved, and delays that can occur with finalising settlements for asbestos claims, the 180 day target to resolve 80 per cent of cases was not met.

Third party recovery rate (i.e. percentage of the value of asbestos claims settlements recovered from third parties)

10 per cent

PBS component 1.6

Result37 per cent (2017–18 result—32 per cent)

$6.9 million was recovered from third parties against $18.9 million paid.

Analysis of performance against strategic priority: Leading workers’ compensation insurer

Comcare’s efforts as a workers’ compensation insurer are focussed on effective and efficient service delivery and the achievement of positive outcomes for our employers and employees. The agency continues to work at refining and improving our claims management and insurance services.

Key external factors for 2018–19

In 2018–19, Comcare experienced a reduction in the number of workers’ compensation claims received for the fifth straight financial year. Claims received by Comcare fell to 1726.

Additionally, this financial year the ACT Government was granted a self-insurance licence by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission. The granting of this licence moved a large employer client out of Comcare’s workers’ compensation remit. DHL Express (Australia) Pty Ltd also joined the scheme as a new self-insured licensee. Five new agencies became part of the workers’ compensation scheme:

  • Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
  • Australian Signals Directorate (formerly included as part of the Department of Defence)
  • National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation
  • North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency
  • North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority.

Performance metrics

Comcare achieved most of its performance objectives for the workers’ compensation function in 2018–19 including:

  • the funding ratio for the insured scheme (the ratio of assets available to Comcare against its workers’ compensation liabilities) reached 131 per cent as at 30 June 2019 meeting the target of remaining fully funded
  • the average Commonwealth premium rate1 determined by Comcare in 2018–19 and applied in 2019–20 is 0.85 per cent of payroll (exclusive of GST) exceeding the target set of 1.1 per cent of payroll (exclusive of GST)
  • scheme liability has reduced to $1.665 billion at 30 June 2019 exceeding the target of $1.9 billion
  • claims administration cost ratio sits at 19.8 per cent against a target of 20 per cent or lower
  • the third-party recovery rate2 for asbestos claims sits at 37 per cent exceeding the target of 10 per cent.

Achievement of these targets is a combination of the efforts Comcare is making to improve its claims management operations, the efforts of Australian Government agencies in preventing injury and early intervention when injury does occur, and the external factors that have impacted Comcare this year.

While performing well, Comcare has not met the targets it set in the following areas:

  • return to work—the proportion of employees who have returned to work, measured by duration of incapacity benefits
  • client satisfaction—satisfaction and engagement with the services provided, measured by survey, to ensure services are appropriate, responsive and relevant
  • timeliness of asbestos claims resolution—asbestos claims resolved within 180 calendar days.

Return to work performance remains a challenge for Comcare as it is for all workers’ compensation jurisdictions across Australia. In 2018–19 our return to work results against timeframes were:

Lost time duration

Corporate Plan target

Result

13 weeks

76 per cent

64 per cent

26 weeks

84 per cent

77 per cent

78 weeks

92 per cent

89 per cent

Note: Results represent the proportion of employees with a workers’ compensation claim whose accrued time off work is less than 13, 26, and 78 weeks. For example, the first target is that 76 per cent of employees with a workers’ compensation claim received payment for time off work for no more than 13 weeks in total.

These results are based on the duration of incapacity benefit (income replacement) payments over the life of workers’ compensation claims and are cumulative in calculation. That is, they do not always represent continuous periods of time off work and may involve multiple periods or individual days. Employees remain on incapacity benefits where rehabilitation and return to work efforts are not effective. There are various reasons for this, including the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs and providers, the nature of the injury and its treatment, and failure to realise unmet capacity (failure to return employees to work where some work capacity exists). Comcare’s role in facilitating effective rehabilitation and return to work remains a focus.

Satisfaction with Comcare’s services has not met target although is relatively stable compared to 2017–18. The introduction of digital platforms to help monitor engagement points with Comcare’s stakeholders, coupled with increased proactive communication with clients, is aimed at improving service interactions across the business.

Comcare attempts to settle asbestos claims within 180 days and has set a target of 80 per cent of all claims received. Fifty-eight per cent of asbestos claims settled in 2018–19 were within the 180 day timeframe (29 out of 50 claims). Comcare completed all necessary determinations and actions for asbestos claims received to settle promptly. However, due to the nature of the injuries involved, and delays that can occur with finalising settlements for asbestos claims in some instances, the 180 day target was not met in 21 cases.

Strategic priority: Effective national regulator

Purpose: Achieving safer and healthier workplaces through promoting continuous improvements in work health, safety and rehabilitation practices and monitoring compliance with the law.

Result against performance criterion

Performance criterion

Target

Source

Our proactive regulatory reach is extended to all entities in our scheme, to further our breadth of activities both in cities and remote workplaces, and ensure we have increased the number of active relationships and entities

Regulator interaction with 100 per cent of entities in our scheme

PBS component 1.1

Corporate Plan

Result100 per cent (2017–18 result—82 per cent against a target of 80 per cent)

Regulatory engagement and outreach across the scheme has improved following the implementation of the Regulatory Engagement Strategy. In 2018–19 Comcare successfully interacted with 100 per cent of regulated entities within our scheme, resulting in Comcare achieving its target for the period.

Our approach improves WHS outcomes in workplaces, measured by increased knowledge, awareness and compliance to ensure regulatory intervention makes a positive difference.

80 per cent of surveyed workplaces have improved WHS outcomes following regulatory intervention

PBS component 1.1

Corporate Plan

Result86 per cent (2017–18 result—76 per cent against a target of 70 per cent)

Following a survey of recipients of Comcare’s regulatory services, 86 per cent of respondents indicated that Comcare’s regulatory services had a positive impact on their workplace and improved work health and safety outcomes.

A sustained high level of satisfaction and engagement with services provided, measured by survey, to ensure regulatory actions are appropriate, responsive and relevant.

Satisfaction rating of 85 per cent or more

PBS component 1.1

Corporate Plan

Result95 per cent (2017–18 result—99 per cent against a target of 82 per cent)

Following a survey of recipients to gauge the level of satisfaction and engagement against inspectorate, education services and work health and safety forums, 95 per cent of respondents reported they were satisfied with Comcare’s regulatory services.

Analysis of performance against strategic priority: Effective national regulator

Comcare has exceeded the performance measures for 2018–19 against its purpose to be an effective national regulator.

Comcare has implemented its internal Regulatory Engagement Strategy 2017–2020, which aims to provide a framework for nationally consistent and targeted engagement with regulated entities and stakeholders. The strategy outlines a multi-level engagement approach to successfully reach its diverse stakeholder group, summarised in Figure 9.

Comcare identifies national regulatory priorities which direct the focus of proactive interactions. Annual regional engagement plans were developed to help deliver the strategy and provide a framework for a structured and scheduled approach to engagement regionally. This enables Comcare to maintain and extend its regulatory reach and influence across the jurisdiction and resulted in interaction with all regulated entities during the period.

Comcare conducts an annual evaluation of its regulatory services to assess if its approach has improved WHS outcomes in workplaces, and if stakeholders are satisfied and engaged with the services provided. The 2018–19 evaluation programme focused on a range of regulatory services, including inspections and verification activities. Those surveyed included attendees of Comcare’s external education courses and national work health and safety forum. Major Hazard Facilities safety managers and WHS Helpdesk recipients were surveyed for the first time in 2018–19 to ensure a broad range of regulatory services are evaluated against the performance measures.

Eighty-six per cent of respondents stated that there were improved WHS outcomes in their workplace as a result of Comcare’s regulatory activity, an increase from last year’s result of 72 per cent. The surveys are improved annually to better assess users’ experience.

Nine work health and safety forums were held across Australia during 2018–19, attended by 287 participants. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with favourable comments relating to content, opportunity to network and meet with Comcare’s inspectorate. Four forums are scheduled for the second half of 2019 with an evaluation to take place once the final forum, scheduled for October 2019, has concluded.

During this period Comcare has continued to mature its risk model and regulatory intelligence capture. These capabilities enable Comcare to use data and intelligence to target regulatory activities using a risk-based, intelligence-led approach.

Work health and safety incidents

In 2018–19, 1358 incidents were notified to Comcare, which is comparable to the preceding years. While serious injury or illness incidents increased by 11 per cent, dangerous incidents decreased by eight per cent. As shown across recent years, these numbers can fluctuate and are not indicative of a specific or common risk or trend.

A number of deaths notified to Comcare in 2018–19 involved road accidents or pre-existing personal medical conditions. Comcare investigates the causal factors and in most instances has determined that they were often beyond the control of the duty holder and that reasonably practicable steps to manage health and safety had been taken. Comcare investigates all incidents involving the death of a worker or other person to determine the cause, improve safety outcomes and ensure those who breach their duties and obligations are held to account.

Table 9: Notifiable incidents notified to Comcare under section 38 of the WHS Act

Type of notifiable incidents

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

201718

2018–19

Total notifiable incidents

1558

1404

1345

1377

1358

Serious injury or illness

522

523

534

492

546

Dangerous incident

1010

851

778

861

790

*Death of a person

26

30

33

24

22

Worker deaths

9

12

14

14

11

Other person deaths

17

18

19

10

12

*An incident may result in harm (or death) to one or more people. Therefore, the total number of workers and other person deaths may be equal to or greater than the total number of notifiable death incidents.

Telecommunications asbestos safety compliance

Comcare established the Telecommunication Asbestos Safety Compliance (TASC) programme on 1 July 2016 as a result of a new policy proposal approved by Government and included in the 2016–17 Portfolio Budget Statements. The programme will run until June 2021 and aims to ensure the highest standards of work health and safety are applied to the rollout of the national broadband network (NBN) through a risk-based, targeted approach. The programme provides a high level of dedicated regulatory oversight through mostly unannounced visits to ensure the compliance of all duty holders across the NBN rollout and to complement NBN Co’s health and safety assurance efforts.

In 2018–19 an average of six inspectors were dedicated to the TASC programme. The inspection process was streamlined with new audit tools introduced to assess compliance, resulting in a higher volume of regulatory activities compared to the previous year. In 2018–19 the TASC Inspectors audited 518 contractors, with 263 being observed by inspectors for the first time. The effectiveness of this programme is evidenced by the generally high levels of compliance during 2018–19.

Table 10: TASC programme activities commenced

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Total TASC programme activities

720

1682

2008

Inspectorate compliance and enforcement activities


Table 11: Inspectorate compliance and enforcement activities

2018–19*

Total inspectorate compliance and enforcement activities

1673

Provide information and advice activities

553

Monitoring compliance inspections and investigations

1120

*Comcare revised its reporting on inspections and investigations to align with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy

Historical investigation and inspection totals

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

2404

1807

1248

1826

Table 12: Notices issued under the WHS Act

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Improvement notices issued under section 191

8

18

8

24

20

Prohibition notices issued under section 195

6

8

9

17

14

Non-disturbance notices issued under section 198

1

2

14

27

14

Table 13: Other statutory reporting requirements under the WHS Act

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Seizures made under section 175 or 176

0

0

0

0

14

Remedial action taken under section 211 or 212

0

0

0

0

0

Applications for internal review under section 224

1

5

3

3

5

Applications for external review made under section 229

0

0

0

0

1

Written undertaking accepted by Comcare under section 216

0

0

0

0

0

*Infringement notices given under section 243

0

0

0

0

0

* The WHS Regulations do not currently prescribe any provision of the WHS Act that is enforceable by infringement notice.

Prosecutions

In 2018–19, Comcare commenced six criminal proceedings under the WHS Act. As at 30 June 2019, four proceedings have continued, and two proceedings have concluded during this period.

Commonwealth (Department of Defence)—commenced
On 17 September 2018, criminal proceedings were commenced in the New South Wales Local Court against the Commonwealth (Department of Defence) for offences against sections 32 and 38 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident on 19 September 2016 in which an army cadet sustained serious injuries during a cadet camp activity.

John Holland Group Pty Ltd, Omega Constructions Pty Ltd and Universal Reo Pty—commenced

On 31 January 2019, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Western Australia against John Holland Group Pty Ltd, Omega Constructions Pty Ltd and Universal Reo Pty Ltd for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident on 1 February 2017 in which a worker sustained serious injuries after being struck by a telescopic handler.

Lendlease Building Contractors Pty Ltd and Bromar Nominees Pty Ltd—commenced
On 30 April 2019, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Western Australia against Lendlease Building Contractors Pty Ltd and Bromar Nominees Pty Ltd for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident on 1 May 2017 in which a worker sustained serious injuries after being struck by a pipe at a Department of Defence worksite.

Commonwealth (Department of Defence)—commenced
On 8 May 2019, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Local Court of the Northern Territory against the Commonwealth (Department of Defence) for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident on 10 May 2017 in which a soldier was fatally shot during a live fire exercise at the Mount Bundey training area.

Commonwealth (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)—commenced
On 5 June 2019, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria against the Commonwealth (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) (CSIRO) for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident on 6 June 2017 in which an explosion occurred at the CSIRO’s Clayton site.

Lendlease Building Contractors Pty Ltd and Kuredale Pty Ltd (trading as Metro Lintels) —commenced
On 5 June 2019, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Western Australia against Lendlease Building Contractors Pty Ltd and Kuredale Pty Ltd (trading as Metro Lintels) for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident on 7 June 2017 in which a worker sustained serious injuries after being struck by a steel truss at a Department of Defence worksite.

Commonwealth (Department of Environment and Energy) and Helicopter Resources Pty Ltd—continued
On 20 December 2017, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of the Australian Capital Territory against the Commonwealth (Department of Environment and Energy) and Helicopter Resources Pty Ltd for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident in which a helicopter pilot sustained fatal injuries after falling down a crevasse in Antarctica on 11 January 2016.

Commonwealth (Department of Defence)—continued
On 27 June 2018, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria against the Commonwealth (Department of Defence) for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident in which two workers suffered injuries during a training exercise at the Puckapunyal training area on 4 July 2016.

Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd—continued
On 15 August 2016, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of South Australia against Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to a fatal collision involving a Cleanaway vehicle on Adelaide’s South-Eastern Freeway on 18 August 2014.

Linfox Australia Pty Ltd and Thales Australia Ltd—Linfox concluded and Thales continued (appeal lodged)
On 17 July 2017, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Queensland against Linfox Australia Pty Ltd and Thales Australia Ltd for offences against sections 32 and 33 of the WHS Act. The proceedings relate to an incident on 22 July 2015 in which an Army vehicle collided with a worker. Linfox Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $200,000. Thales Australia Ltd pleaded not guilty and was convicted and fined $160,000. On 26 April 2019 Thales Australia Ltd lodged an appeal.

Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd—concluded
On 28 July 2017, criminal proceedings were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria against Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd for offences against section 32 of the WHS Act. The proceedings related to an incident in which a worker sustained fatal injuries after being struck by a truck manoeuvring in a Cleanaway workplace on 5 August 2015. All charges were dismissed on 19 December 2018.

Regulator Performance Framework

Comcare is currently completing its 2018–19 self-assessment against its endorsed key performance measures for the Regulator Performance Framework. The report will be published on the Comcare website later in the year.

Strategic Priority: Excellence in scheme design and management

Purpose: Excellence in scheme design and management to achieve sustainable and better practice national schemes.

Result against performance criterion

Performance criterion

Target

Source

Return to work rates developed through the existing biennial National Return to Work Survey1 indicating the rehabilitation outcomes achieved

Comcare scheme return to work rate = 95 per cent

PBS component 1.2

Corporate Plan

Result94 per cent

Comcare achieved a scheme return to work rate of 94 per cent (based on the 2017–18 National Return to Work Survey). The biennial National Return to Work Survey will be conducted again in 2019–20.

Additional to the National Return to Work Survey, Comcare has begun collecting work status codes across claims accepted in the last two years. The current return rate for the scheme is 87 per cent as at 30 June 2019. The status code performance confirms the high return to work rate for the scheme.

Improve the financial sustainability of the scheme measured by notional premium rate

Comcare scheme notional premium rate = 1.12 per cent

PBS component 1.2

Corporate Plan

Result0.87 per cent

For 2018–19 the notional premium rate target has been achieved and is 0.87 per cent. This result is comparable to last year (0.86 per cent in 2017–18) and is largely attributable to the continuing improvement in Comcare claims management performance.

Better practice scheme management assessed through qualitative review

Qualitative evaluation of scheme management identifies the adoption/promotion of better practice

PBS component 1.2

Corporate Plan

ResultAchieved

In 2018–19, Comcare supported the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) in implementing better practice improvements to its published Licensee Compliance and Performance Model (LCPM). Comcare also developed guidance for scheme participants on return to work case conferencing, incapacity payments, permanent impairment payments, aids and appliances and reconsiderations. Comcare has also developed, in consultation with stakeholders, the 2019 Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities (Guidelines) and an updated Rehabilitation Case Manager Handbook (Handbook) to assist rehabilitation authorities to understand their obligations and support better practice rehabilitation. The Guidelines and Handbook were released in August 2019. These initiatives are identified better practices and are being promoted and adopted across the Comcare scheme.

SRCC and Seacare Authority support – PBS Component 1.3

SRCC satisfaction of support provided by Comcare

Qualitative evaluation using structured services and feedback from the Chair

PBS component 1.3

ResultAchieved

Service level performance measures are set through the SRCC meeting protocols and statement of services provided by Comcare to the SRCC. Service levels for the support Comcare provides to the SRCC were achieved 95 per cent of the time. No actions were required or requested by Commissioners in response to performance measures reported.

Seacare Authority satisfaction of support provided by Comcare

Qualitative evaluation using structured services and feedback from the Chair

PBS component 1.3

ResultAchieved

Service level performance measures are set through the Seacare Authority meeting procedures and protocols and the application of better practice benchmarking. Service levels for the support Comcare provides to the Seacare Authority were achieved 99 per cent of the time across the 2018–19 reporting period. No actions were required or requested from members in response to performance measures reported.

1 The National Return to Work Survey will be conducted in 2019–20 and 2021–22.

Analysis of performance against strategic priority: Excellence in scheme design and management

Comcare has a range of functions and powers under the SRC Act that relate to the management of the Comcare scheme. These functions span the entire scheme including premium paying employers and self-insured licensees. Comcare’s objective in performing these functions is to be a national leader in the design, implementation and management of a workers’ compensation scheme and ensure our efforts improve work health and safety and rehabilitation outcomes.

In 2018–19, Comcare provided support and assistance to the then Department of Jobs and Small Business on proposed legislative changes. This included a review of proposed amendments, the provision of data and other related information to assist with the drafting of specific provisions, meetings to discuss proposed changes and coordination of internal consultation on the changes.

Comcare developed and implemented scheme guidance on the following topics in 2018–19:

  • aids and appliances
  • reconsiderations under the SRC Act.

Comcare also developed and published the following e-guidance products in 2018–19:

  • return to work case conferencing
  • incapacity payments
  • permanent impairment.

In 2018–19, the SRCC granted self-insurance licences to the ACT Government and DHL Express(Australia) Pty Ltd. Comcare provided support to the SRCC in the administration of these processes. Comcare also supported the SRCC in conducting elements of its five-year review plan for the SRCC’s regulatory model, including:

  • a high-level assessment of the functioning of the SRCC’s model
  • further refinement of a targeted review methodology for licensee prevention, claims and rehabilitation performance
  • review of the operation of the general conditions of licence for self-insured licensees
  • development of a review methodology for licensees in year six of their licence to support the SRCC in determining areas of focus for licence extension applications
  • clarification of the application of licensee key performance indicators.

Comcare continued to provide extensive advice and support to the Seacare Authority in 2018–19 to manage the Safety Net Fund and administer the Seacare scheme.

Strategic Priority: Efficient and effective operations

Purpose: Working collaboratively and innovatively across the organisation to:

  • enable the business to achieve Comcare’s outcome
  • support the business to drive change.

Result against performance criterion

Performance criterion

Target

Increased satisfaction with corporate services measured through responses to a survey conducted annually

85 per cent satisfaction rate

ResultAchieved (2017–18 result—68 per cent)

Two pulse corporate services satisfaction surveys were held in 2018–19 with the first meeting the target of 85 per cent satisfaction and the second exceeding the target with a 96 per cent satisfaction rate. The results indicate that corporate services are meeting the needs of the organisation. The variance in results, especially when compared with the 68 per cent satisfaction result from the previous year, indicates that employee views of corporate services can rapidly change depending on their most recent interactions and continuing regular surveys will allow close monitoring of satisfaction.

Maintain employee levels of engagement which are higher than those in similar sized agencies, measured through ratings on the leadership category questions in the APS employee census.

Comcare employees rate their:

· job engagement at higher than 7.5

· team engagement at higher than 7.2

· supervisor engagement at higher than 7.9

· agency engagement at higher than 6.4

· collaboration between groups at higher than 55 per cent

· agency innovation at higher than 70 per cent

ResultDid not achieve targets, except for collaboration

Result against performance criterion (continued)

Comcare has achieved similar APS employee census results from last year, although, targets have not been met by minor margins. This slight decrease in results, could potentially be attributed to several organisational change activities that occurred throughout the organisation and movement within our leadership cohort when the census was being conducted. These areas will continue to be monitored across 2019–20, with Group and/or organisational initiatives to be developed as part of action planning.

Table 14: APS Employee Census engagement ratings

Elements of engagement

Comcare 2015

Comcare 2016

Comcare 2017

Comcare 2018

Comcare 2019

Medium-sized agencies 2019

Job engagement

7.2

7.5

7.5

7.5

7.4

7.4

Team engagement

7.1

7.2

7.3

7.2

7.1

7.1

Supervisor engagement

7.5

7.9

8.0

8.0

7.8

7.7

Agency engagement

5.9

6.4

6.4

6.1

6.1

6.2

Agency innovation

66 per cent

67 per cent

Comcare employees have the knowledge and skills to meet operational needs, measured through results of the APSC employee census results

90 per cent of employees indicate that they have the skills and knowledge to undertake their job

Result94 per cent (2017–18 result—95 per cent against a target of 80 per cent)

As at 30 June 2019, an average of 95 per cent of employees had completed their e-learning corporate fundamentals training which are required to be completed each performance cycle. This is a similar result to the 93 per cent result from this time last year. In addition, an average of 90 per cent of employees had completed their performance and WHS corporate fundamentals training which are required to be completed every two years. Comcare’s 2019 APS Employee Census results confirmed 94 per cent of employees indicated they have appropriate skills, capabilities, and knowledge to do their job.

Comcare’s workers’ compensation premium is maintained, achieved through improving:

· injury and harm levels

· recovery and early return to work rates of Comcare employees.

Comcare’s workers’ compensation premium is 2.1 per cent or less

Result1.67 per cent

Result against performance criterion (continued)

For 2019–20, Comcare’s premium has been set at 1.67 per cent which is a decrease from 2.33 per cent for 2018–19.The table below shows the percentage change and dollar value of Comcare’s premium. Comcare has seen a decrease in the dollar value of its premium (prescribed amount) between 2018–19 and 2019–20 of 26.21 per cent.

Table 15: Premium rates

Premium

201516

201617

201718

201819

201920

Comcare premium rate (prescribed rate)1

5.65 per cent

4.44 per cent

2.67 per cent

2.33 per cent

1.67 per cent

Total premium (dollar value)2

$2,632,245

$2,742,215

$1,203,926

$1,373,870

$860,853

Prescribed amount (dollar value)3

$2,953,210

$2,383,099

$1,601,094

$1,355,881

$1,000,505

Percentage change in dollar value (prescribed amount) 2018–19 to 2019–20

-26.21 per cent

Commonwealth average premium rate

1.85 per cent

1.72 per cent

1.23 per cent

1.06 per cent

0.85 per cent

1 Premium rate excluding GST.

2 Total premium (excluding GST) includes bonus or penalty and additional margin.

3 Prescribed amount excluding GST.

For 2018–19, Comcare saw a slight deterioration in claims performance and therefore a penalty amount of $17,989 was added to the total premium.

In 2018–19 two Comcare employees had their claim first accepted, with only one employee receiving incapacity payments. The below table represents Comcare employees with accepted claims with a date of injury in the financial years below and any resulting incapacity.

Table 16: Continuance rates – incapacity durations (an indication of return to work performance)

Time period

2017–18

Number of employees (percentage)

2018–19

Number of employees (percentage)

No incapacity

1 (33 per cent)

1 (50 per cent)

Less than 4 weeks

0 (0 per cent)

1 (50 per cent)

4 weeks

1 (33 per cent)

0

13 weeks

1 (33 per cent)

0

26 weeks

0

0

52 weeks

0

0

Table 17: Mechanism of injury for Comcare accepted claims from 2016–17 to 2018–19

Mechanism of injury

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

Falls, trips and slips

1

0

1

Hitting objects with body

0

1

0

Being hit by moving objects

0

0

0

Sound and pressure

0

0

0

Body stressing

0

1

0

Heat, electricity and other environmental factors

0

0

0

Chemicals and other substances

0

0

0

Biological factors

0

0

0

Mental stress

0

1

0

Vehicle incidents

0

0

0

Other and unspecified

1

1

0

Total

2

3

1

Analysis of performance against strategic priority: Efficient and effective operations

Building our people, technology and change management capability is core to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. Key capability developments during 2018–19 are outlined below.

Change Management

A consistent approach has been developed to inform how we manage business transformation and change across the organisation. Comcare’s approach to change is supported through a streamlined four-step process that combines best practice and principles of leading change management experts.

The Managing Change in Comcare Framework has been endorsed by Executive to ensure that business change is managed consistently and effectively within Comcare. A number of tools have been developed to enhance our framework for managing change including a Comcare Position Categorisation Framework and Comcare Organisational Change Management Plan template.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) enhancements

A new 2019–2023 ICT Strategy was developed, which supersedes the 2015 digital strategy, and focusses on improving digital services and capability for staff and external stakeholders. The strategy includes a complete transition to cloud services, in line with whole of government direction, and a strong focus on continuous cyber security improvements in response to the threat that cyber security poses to digital businesses.

The development of a new modernised user interface for the claims management system commenced part way through the year and is on track to be completed in 2019–20. This new interface will significantly improve system usability and provide a common user experience for both internal and external users.

The expansion of digital information practices continues, in line with National Archives Digital Continuity 2020 Policy, optimising the delivery of Comcare’s programs and services. This has included more paperbased processes being replaced with digital solutions, streamlining access to corporate services through automation and digital work flow processes, and continuing the reduction in paper use.

Strategic alignment of projects

During 2018–19 Comcare has continued to mature our project management capability and the strategic alignment of our projects. A spot check audit was undertaken to evaluate the processes and tools that support the implementation of the project management framework and the governance arrangements in place to oversee the implementation and ongoing management of Comcare projects. The audit recommended:

  1. The introduction of a portfolio management approach to strengthen Comcare’s ability to embrace change, balance Comcare investments to maximise value for business and ensure all our efforts are aligned with Comcare strategic focus.
  2. Introduction of the portfolio level practices and processes to ensure our value propositions remain valid and that benefits are realised.
  3. Portfolio, programme and project management office organisation and capability improvements to effectively manage our resources and ensure consistent practices are applied across Comcare projects.

The Portfolio Maturity Project commenced in June 2019. A portfolio management framework and transition roadmap have been designed and Executive consultation is underway.

Strategic Priority: Drive innovation and better practice for the schemes

Purpose: Collaborate across Comcare and sectors to design and deliver research and innovative initiatives to further enhance scheme outcomes.

Result against performance criterion

Performance criterion

Target

Evidence-based new or improved programmes, services and/or products introduced for Comcare and scheme participants

Six active initiatives that address scheme challenges and emerging issues

ResultAchieved

Driving innovation through collaborative programs and partnerships is an important way Comcare supports healthy and safe workplaces. Comcare has worked closely with scheme participants and industry partners to initiate eight—two more than the target—evidence-based programs that address scheme challenges and emerging issues with a focus on injury prevention, early intervention, and workplace mental health and wellness.

1. NewAccess low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy program (LiCBT) in workplaces: Over six months, NewAccess was trialled with 50 employees at two APS agencies where coaches provided up to six confidential sessions to each participant. Coaches worked with participants to build self-awareness, understand their work stressors, and provide techniques to help manage anxiety and depression. With the success of the NewAccess trial, Comcare is exploring to expanding the service over a two-year period for all interested employers.

2. Early intervention service provider pilot: Comcare is conducting a six‐month pilot with three APS agencies to test the effectiveness of using an external early intervention provider in improving recovery and return to work outcomes for injured employees.

3. Mental health community of practice: The event brings together more than 150 APS agency representatives to share and encourage mentally healthy workplace better practice across the jurisdiction. The event continues to grow in popularity, showing employers’ commitment to fostering mentally healthy workplaces. One session was held in May 2019, with the next event planned for November 2019.

4. Clinical guidelines for the diagnosis and management of work-related mental health conditions in general practice: These guidelines were published in March 2019. The next phase is the Implementing work-related Mental health guidelines in general Practice (IMPRovE) project which include a complex intervention in general practice to implement evidence-based guidelines for the diagnosis and management of work-related mental health conditions in general practice.

5. National mentally healthy workplace alliance: The Alliance is a national approach by business, the mental health sector, unions and regulators committed to creating mentally healthy workplaces. Acknowledging and leveraging off the good work happening across Australia, the aim is to work in partnership with workplaces to find new ways to support them in creating mentally healthy environments.

6. Lead indicators: Comcare is playing a lead role in the use of lead and lag indicators by scheme employers to better identify and manage WHS risk. The project involves collaboration with the University of South Australia for use of their Psychological Safety Climate (PSC 12)—a 12 question survey with participating scheme employers. The program also includes mentoring for leaders of the participating teams, secure data collection and analysis and reporting.

7. Comcare e-certificate of capacity: The project seeks to introduce an electronic solution to the current paper-based process for certifying capacity. The electronic solution will be integrated into a General Practitioner’s (GP) existing patient management software and would allow a GP to auto-populate a patient’s available information, use a guided workflow to undertake the certification and to create a certificate, provide a copy of the certificate to the patient, and automatically store the certificate in the GP’s records.

8. National certificate of capacity: This program of work, led by Comcare, seeks to develop a nationally consistent certificate of capacity on behalf of the Heads’ of Workers’ Compensation Authorities (HWCA). The program will involve cross-jurisdictional exploration, analysis, design and consultation to deliver of a national certificate of capacity. The subsequent implementation of the national certificate will be subject to jurisdictional considerations and timing. If endorsed in November 2019, the intent is to provide the national certificate of capacity electronically as the approved statutory form for Comcare and which other jurisdictions may also adopt.

Demonstrated cross-sector national collaboration

Four active cross-sector initiatives co-designed and established

ResultAchieved

The Collaborative Partnership is a national effort bringing together partners from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. The partners work with employers, employees, health professionals and industry leaders to develop and deliver innovative solutions. The Partnership is focussed on four priority areas which are managed by each of the partners (project leads) and through its role as the Collaborative Partnership Secretariat, Comcare is managing the governance activities across the four initiatives.

They are:

· Collaborative Partnership cross-sector project (led by Department of Social Services): Mapping Australian Systems of Income Support for People with Health-Related Work Incapacity.

· Employer mobilisation report (led by the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business): The report provides fresh insights into overcoming employment barriers for Australians whose work opportunities are limited by injury, illness or disability. The study examined employer behaviours, attitudes and intentions towards hiring and retaining people with health conditions that impact their ability to work.

· GP support project (led by Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM): This project will support GPs through a nationally consistent approach for quality service that supports work participation for people with a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition impacting their ability to work.

· Employee awareness project (led by EML): This project aims to improve employees’ understanding of the health benefits of good work and promoting their role in using work as part of their recovery. The project will seek to identify and potentially trial an appropriate client empowerment intervention.

The Collaborative Partnership Committee will meet during 2019–20 to discuss and agree to the strategic direction of the Partnership moving forward.

Comcare has a strategic research plan that informs better practice across the scheme

Strategic research plan established to support the scheme needs

ResultAchieved

Comcare delivered its Research Plan 20182022 (Research Plan) in May 2019. It outlines the five priority research themes that will drive Comcare’s research priorities, with our partners, over the next four years. The priorities are:

1. Enabling healthy and safe workplaces—preventing harm in our workplaces

2. Enhancing employer capability—helping organisations to meet their WHS duties and obligations, and their ability to implement better-practice models to support employees

3. Guiding and supporting mental health and wellbeing—building mentally healthy workplaces

4. Fostering work participation—maximising prevention, retention, recovery at and return to work

5. Adapting to the future of work—responding to future work practices and environments

Analysis of performance against strategic priority: Drive innovation and better practice for the schemes

Comcare continued to collaborate across the scheme and other sectors to design, test and deliver research, innovative initiatives and programs of work to further enhance scheme outcomes. This has enabled Comcare to successfully deliver against the three 2018–19 performance criteria, and some of the highlights include:

  1. Delivering eight initiatives—two more than required—to address scheme challenges and emerging issues. Working closely with Beyond Blue, the NewAccess Low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy program (LiCBT) initiative was piloted in two APS agencies—Australian Electorate Commission and the Department of Home Affairs. The results from the pilot achieved a recovery rate of 78 per cent indicating that NewAccess is an effective program for delivery among APS workforce. Comcare is now working towards expanding NewAccess across the scheme.
  2. Continuing to support cross-sector national collaboration through four initiatives delivered through the Collaborative Partnership. One such initiative is the Mapping Australian Systems of Income Support for People with Health-Related Work Incapacity. This is the first research to look at several major compensation and benefit systems to identify the flow of people through them, how the systems interact and where they can be improved to deliver better health and productivity outcomes. The research identified that in Australia during the 2015–16 financial year an estimated 786,000 people who were unable to work due to ill health, injury or disability received income support from a commonwealth, state, territory or private source. An additional 6.5 million people accessed employer provided leave entitlements for short periods of work incapacity. A total of $37.2 billion was spent on income support for these people during the year.
  3. Engaging and consulting with stakeholders across the jurisdiction to identify the five research themes that will be used to drive innovation and better practice across our Scheme using an applied research model. As the Research Plan is implemented, Comcare will consider new research opportunities that support the priority research themes; such opportunities will be further assessed and prioritised according to their potential impact, innovation and importance in addressing the high-level needs of the jurisdiction.

Footnotes

  1. Premium as a percentage of agency payroll.
  2. per cent of the value of asbestos claim settlements recovered from third parties.