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Trauma bill discriminates against non workers

Media statement 19th June, 2008

Trauma bill discriminates against non workers

Proposals to change ACC legislation so workers are covered for developing mental injury after being exposed to a sudden traumatic event during the course of their work are unfair and unworkable.

The outcomes will include increased employer levies and uncertainties with increases in levies, says the Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern (EMA) manager of occupational safety and health, Paul Jarvie.

The change is one of a number included in the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill (No.2), and EMA supports the National Party response as revealed by Maryan Street (Minister of ACC) in a press release yesterday.

"It's only sensible that treatment for mental injury from witnessing a trauma should be available to all people, not just employees, and that it therefore be paid from Vote Health rather than ACC levies," says Mr Jarvie.

"That is what we have submitted. The law is badly drafted.

"For example, the eight-year-old boy who recently witnessed his mother being run over and killed during an Auckland robbery is not eligible for compensation under this Bill, because he didn't witness the tragedy as a 'worker'. But a supermarket trolley boy who witnessed the event would be covered.

"On the other hand, a train driver would be covered if his train knocks down someone on the tracks, but the family out strolling who also sees it, gets no cover for the mental injury they suffer.

"It's an arbitrary line and the wording in the Bill makes it very subjective as to whether an employee has suffered mental injury and that the incident was a sudden unexpected trauma.

"Lawyers and the medical profession such as psychiatrists will be the only winners here.

"While we know that ACC has the infrastructure to deal with these claims, we don't think the proposals offer a fair way to handle mental injury.

"And the bar will be set lower and lower over time, costing employers even more. Right now they certainly can't afford another charge. In Australia mental injury claims have been numerous and costly.

"Even ACC estimates the cost of the amendment will be 'somewhere' between $7.6 million and $72.2m. If they can't predict something more accurate than that, it's like asking employers to write an open cheque."


ENDS

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