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Return of right to sue employers for hearing loss

19 November 2009
Media Statement

ACC Bill means return of right to sue employers for hearing loss - a major change for NZ

The Transport and Industrial Relations select committee was today warned that changes to ACC would result in a return to the right to sue employers, says Labour’s ACC spokesperson David Parker.

The committee today heard the first tranche of submissions on the Injury Prevention Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill, which will cut entitlements to ACC.

“The ACC Futures Coalition, a group committed to maintaining the principles of the ACC scheme, told MPs the Bill - which excludes ACC cover for up to six per cent hearing loss (in addition to age related hearing loss) - in effect reinstates the right to sue employers. This shows how the Government's changes are undermining the fundamentals of the ACC scheme.

"This will benefit lawyers and private insurance companies, and hurt both employees and their employers. We are on the slippery slope to the bad old days,” David Parker said.

“Coalition lawyer Hazel Armstrong said hearing loss under six per cent has a significant impact on individuals. Once outside of ACC, people will sue.

“Amongst many other concerns, the CTU and Finsec both raised serious concerns about changes which will substantially cut ACC entitlements following injuries. ACC will now to force people back to work when they are assessed able to work for 30 hours a week, down from the current 35 hours – and will remove the requirement on ACC to consider an employee’s pre-injury earnings first.

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“In effect injured people will suffer a 25 per cent drop in income from their shorter hours plus a drop in their hourly rate. Examples were given showing they will be able to be forced back into jobs for a whopping third less pay.

"This will cause hardship for many, who will be forced back into what is effectively part-time work at significantly lower rates of pay, after suffering a work accident that was not their fault,” David Parker says.

“This will be enforced by private insurers if National privatises parts of ACC.

“The CTU said decreased spending on accident prevention would result in more accidents, reversing the trend of decreasing work accidents.

“It said the Bill in its entirety would have ‘a dramatically negative effect on workers’, that the changes were ‘particularly targeted at vulnerable workers’ and that the proposals were unwarranted, unreasonable and unfair.”


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