Vic WorkCover scheme hurts injured workers

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has again slammed problems with the state's WorkCover scheme.
Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has again slammed problems with the state's WorkCover scheme.

Victoria's WorkCover scheme is hurting long-term injured workers with its "immoral and unethical" decisions when handling cases, the state's ombudsman says.

The five private insurers who manage WorkCover claims on behalf of WorkSafe have made unreasonable decisions with cases affecting victims and their families, the ombudsman's report released on Tuesday reveals.

"The emotional toll was unequivocal; the cost not only to them and their families, but to society, should not be underestimated," Ombudsman Deborah Glass states.

"Many of the decisions and actions we saw were not only unjust, unreasonable and wrong. Some were downright immoral and unethical."

Nurses, teachers, police officers, aged-care and childcare workers, truck drivers, baggage handlers and tradesmen are among those dealt a blow in their claims.

"Agents continue to make unreasonable decisions, the dispute process is time consuming, stressful and costly, and Worksafe is too often unwilling or unable to deal," she adds.

The probe found numerous examples of agents "cherry-picking" evidence to support a decision, while disregarding overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

While insurers can expect to make a profit from managing the claims, the financial viability of the scheme has tilted away from fairness for workers, according to the report.

It's the second time Ms Glass has canvassed the same issue after similar problems came to light in a 2016 investigation.

"For the sake of the next generation of injured workers, and the wider community that bears the cost, we should not have to investigate this issue again," Ms Glass said.

Ms Glass has made 15 recommendations with the state government and WorkSafe agreeing to them all.

Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said the government would launch its own review and rollout a new dispute resolution process.

She acknowledged the "disturbing" examples of workers being denied their legal entitlements, a systematic issue with the model for managing complex claims, insufficient oversight and review mechanisms

WorkSafe chief executive Colin Radford apologised to workers affected.

"No one chooses to be injured at work. When injuries or illness do occur, workers deserve to be treated with empathy and respect, and to receive the right support and the right entitlements in a timely manner," he said in a statement after the report's release.

"To those injured workers for whom this has regrettably not been the case, I apologise."

Australian Associated Press