LawTalk Blog

Major changes proposed to Return to Work payments

crutches against a wall

Return to Work SA has recently put out a consultation paper on proposed changes to the Impairment Assessment Guidelines (IAG) for injured workers. While these changes may seem minor on paper, these proposals will affect thousands of South Australian workers if approved by the Treasurer.

Currently, for an injured worker to receive a lump sum payment for compensation of their work injury, they must undergo an assessment of their injury in accordance with the IAG. If they receive a whole person impairment of 5% or more, they are entitled to a lump sum payment for their injury.

Many doctors have expressed their concern about the proposed changes and the way the changes will reduce many assessments of whole person impairments.

It is important to note that:-

1. The changes are likely to dramatically reduce the amount of or, in some cases, prevent injured workers from receiving a lump sum payment at all.

Many workers who are currently entitled to a lump sum payment, will not be entitled to that payment if the proposed changes are made.

2. The changes could prevent workers who may be classified as being ‘seriously injured’ (under the current IAG) from meeting this threshold altogether.

This means that their income payments will be cut off after two years, even for workers who are unable to return to work as a direct result of their injuries.

3. The changes seek to restrict the type of doctors that can undertake the assessments, leaving the workers with less choices.

This is despite these doctors having considerable experience in performing these assessments for many years, with their reports and views being tested and relied upon in the Tribunal. 

4. The changes will modify the way pre-existing injuries or degeneration are dealt with.

A worker who has pre-existing degenerative changes will be penalised, even though they have experienced no pain or restriction in this area prior to their work injury. Degeneration is a normal aging process. Many adults have degenerative changes yet have no pain or disability as a result. To penalise these workers for something that they are not even aware of is unfair.


The changes that have been proposed by Return to Work SA are numerous and will have an extensive impact on injured workers if they are approved. If you are concerned by these proposed changes, we encourage you to contact your local member of parliament to advise them of this.


Special Counsel in Employment Law, Margaret Kaukas, spoke to David Bevan on ABC Adelaide about the proposed changes. This conversation was also followed by an interview with SA Treasurer, Rob Lucas. Listen here.

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Get in touch with today's blog writer:
Sarah Vinall

Partner in Personal Injury  and  Medical Negligence

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal and South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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