It's a rare occasion when the unions and the Law Society of NSW agree on something.

But both are of the view the state government got it horribly wrong with their 2012 workers' compensation changes and both believe the balance has swung too far away from workers' rights and needs.

The McAuley Room at the Penrith Bowling and Recreation Club was filled to overflowing when the law society hosted a public forum there on February 17.

Ros Everett, immediate past law society president, said the current law means hundreds of thousands are relying on a system that "masquerades" as workers' compensation.

Steve Groves, solicitor and personal injury specialist at Lamrocks Solicitors and Attorneys in Penrith, said the changes to the law that came into effect in 2012 have lead to major cuts to benefits of those injured at work and changes to the benefits available.

Mr Groves said there were now shorter timeframes for which workers would have medical and travel costs paid and less oversight and he said it was appalling that for large portions of the process people had to navigate the system without legal representation.

Mr Groves said Debbie Stewart, of Mount Riverview, was a good example of workers' compensation failing.

On December 22, 2000, she was on her way to work at the Sydney Futures Exchange and allegedly tripped up a staircase, causing what she said was significant injury to her right knee.

Since then she has had about 12 operations on her right knee, culminating in a total replacement and has been on crutches for 14 years.

After the workers' compensation law changes, between July 2012 and October 2014, her employer's workers' compensation insurer issued seven notices declining liability for medication, secondary injuries to her spine, right ankle, both shoulders and her left knee. They also declined liability for renovations recommended by the insurers and an occupational therapist.

Ms Stewart got a grant for legal aid from the WorkCover Independent Review Office and eventually had a hearing in January this year. She said her life was made a misery by her insurer since the amendments to workers' compensation law.

Mr Groves said it was unfair that Ms Stewart's insurer had the power to decide her capacity for employment, that they were not allowed legal representation to appeal any decision and that there was no independent review tribunal such as the Workers' Compensation Commission.

 

Source: Penrith City Gazette

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