Workers’ compensation through federal agency Comcare is no longer strictly a scheme mostly for public servants, with more than half the employees covered now in the private sector.
Growth in the self-insurance sector has driven up the number of workers covered by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, with 57% of full-time equivalent employees now covered being non-APS employees.
A move by the ACT Government and the Australian National University to self-insurance models in 2018-19 is partly behind the numbers.
But private companies covered under the scheme have also risen, with ANZ Bank and Ramsay Healthcare joining in the past 12 months.
The Australian government opened the scheme to private businesses in the early 1990s in a bid to reduce the regulatory burden for private sector employers with national operations.
The move was attractive to businesses because it meant they were only required to deal with a single framework of workers compensation legislation rather than multiple sets across jurisdictions.
But the Labor government in 2007 then placed a six-year moratorium on private companies applying to become self-insurance licensees through Comcare.
It raised concerns about protections available for workers under the scheme, in a move believed to be to appease fears of a private sector exodus from state and territory compensation schemes.
But this was removed by the Liberals after winning government in 2013.
Since then, the number of businesses involved in the scheme has increased from 30 to 40, with recent growth tilting coverage towards a higher proportion of private-sector workers than public servants.
“National companies have regularly shown interest in the self-insurance arrangements under the SRC Act,” a Comcare spokesperson said.
Only 30 businesses covered under the scheme before 2012 when the Commonwealth WHS Act came into force are also covered by this scheme as well.
Comcare collects licence fees from the self-insured licensees on a cost-recovery basis set by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.
Comcare received $18.2 million in 2020-21 from self-insured licence holders, up from $17.2 million the year before.