|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
Responsibility for hearing and determining disputes arising out of the statutory workers' compensation system was vested in County Court Judges and Police Magistrates under the Workers' Compensation Act 1914.
In 1938 the Workers' Compensation Board was established to arbitrate with respect to workers' compensation disputes. The Board acted as a court of settlement for cases between employers and employees when there was a dispute regarding liability. Settlements under the Act were to be paid periodically or in a lump sum. Any lump sum settlements whether disputed or not had to be sanctioned by the Board. Decisions made regarding the extent of compensation were determined by considering the degree of a person's incapacity.
The Registrar was to keep a register in the prescribed form containing particulars of the claims for compensation received by the Board and of determinations, awards and orders of the Board upon or arising out of such claims.
In 1985 there was a major re-organisation of workers compensation in Victoria. Under the provisions of the Accident Compensation Act (No. 10191) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (No. 10190) the emphasis changed from solely compensating workers for injuries sustained to focussing on the prevention of injury and the rehabilitation of injured workers.
The Tribunal was one of four WorkCare agencies set up in 1985 to implement the WorkCare system which had three components: prevention, compensation (claims\dispute resolution and administration of compensation) and rehabilitation. The other three agencies were the Accident Compensation Commission (VA 2732), the Victorian Accident Rehabilitation Council (VA 2697) and the Occupational Health and Safety Commission (VA 1647).
The Act came into operation on 1 September 1985 establishing the Tribunal as the legal arm of the WorkCare administration responsible for resolving disputes between employees and employers as to their entitlement to compensation and their liability to pay compensation. In this respect the Tribunal replaced the Workers Compensation Board (VA 876).
The judicial structure of the Tribunal consisted of fourteen judges, twenty one Arbitrators/Conciliators and eight Lay Members. They were initially divided into three divisions:
Accident Compensation Division (to handle work related injuries received after 4:00 pm of 31 August 1985)
Workers Compensation Division (to handle work related injuries received prior to 4:00pm of 31August1985 i.e. preWorkCare)
Contribution Assessment Division (to determine the contribution payable between insurers and the Accident Compensation Commission - abolished circa 1990).
The Registrar to the Tribunal was a Statutory Officer whose functions were to arrange for the listing of applications brought to the Tribunal, provide administrative assistance to the Judges and to administer beneficiaries' funds paid into his custody. The Registrar's office was divided into the following branches: Court Management, Investment, Managed Funds, Information Systems and Corporate Services.
Most proceedings before the Accident Compensation Tribunal were initiated by the Accident Compensation Commission or self-insurers.
In March 1990 following the proclamation of the Accident Compensation (General Amendment Act, No 64/1989) two more organisations were established; the WorkCare Appeals Board, which was responsible for initial resolution of disputes and the Medical Panels, which considered medical questions referred either by the WorkCare Appeals Board or the Accident Compensation Tribunal.
In March 1990 responsibility for all areas of WorkCare passed from the Treasurer (VRG 23) to the Minister for Labour (VRG 42). On 18 March 1991 responsibility for the Accident Compensation Tribunal was transferred to the Attorney-General (VRG 19).
Dispute Resolution Processes
Compensation claims had to be accepted or rejected within either 28 or 60 days. Appeal periods of up to 60 days (depending on the nature of the appeal) after denial of a claim were specified in the principal Act.
The method of appeal changed between 1985 and 1993. Until 5 March 1990 the line of formal appeal was from claims agent to the Accident Compensation Commission to the Arbitration Division of the Tribunal to the Tribunal Division of the Tribunal. The 1989 Act established, from March 1990, the WorkCare Appeals Board and Medical Panels. The Medical Panels were established to provide medical advice on claims. The Act also reorganised the Tribunal and its functions. The line of appeal then became from claims agent to the Commission to the WorkCare Appeals Board to the Presidential level of the Tribunal. In January 1992 an additional, discretionary stage was added to the process. From that date, a claimant could submit additional medical evidence to his or her agent or the WorkCare Appeals Board. If the agent reviewed its decision on the basis of the new evidence, there was no need for the appeal to proceed to the Board.
Under WorkCare an employer who was dissatisfied with an agent's administration of a claim could formally apply to the Commission for a review of the decision. If dissatisfied with the review the employer could appeal to the Tribunal within 60 days. The result of the review could affect the employer's rating and classification for levy assessment, bonus and penalties purposes.
Within WorkCare the Commission could dispute claims which would initially be presented to the WorkCare Appeals Board and, if still disputed, would be determined by the Tribunal.
Appeals against decisions by the Tribunal could be made to the Supreme Court.
The Tribunal was abolished in 1992. Since then responsibility has been split between the following three bodies:
the County Court has jurisdiction for applications from workers on all matters except medical and rehabilitation matters.
the Magistrates Court has the same jurisdiction as the County Court where the value of the matter is $25,000 or less and for weekly payments up to 26 weeks.
the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (from 1998 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) has jurisdiction for medical and like services including rehabilitation services, employer levy objections and contributions by prior insurers.
Under WorkCover disputed claims are reviewed by Conciliation Officers engaged under the 1992 Act. The Conciliation Officers succeeded the WorkCare Appeals Board. One of the Victorian WorkCover Authority's functions, therefore, is to accept or reject claims rather than to dispute them since the Conciliation Service is an arm of the Authority - even though the Authority may not overrule or interfere with a Conciliation Officer's decision. Appeal against the Authority's rejection of a claim is to the Magistrates' or County Court, depending on the subject matter and sum involved.
Disputes over medical diagnoses, treatment or capacity to work are determined by medical panels under WorkCover. Medical panels' decisions are binding on conciliators and courts.