Businesses will be shielded from WorkCover premium hikes with the state government to contribute $550m to make up the shortfall.
Big increases in the number, complexity and cost of claims — particularly for mental health issues — have put the scheme under pressure.
But the premium employers pay won’t rise next financial year amid concern about the pandemic’s impact on businesses.
Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt told the Herald Sun: “We’re doing everything we can to make workplaces safe and support injured workers, while keeping premiums low for businesses so they can grow and create more jobs."
“This investment means Victorian workers can be confident that they will get the help they need, when they need it – while making sure businesses are supported to keep their workers safe,’’ Ms Stitt said.
Figures provided to the Herald Sun show workplace mental injuries comprise 13 per cent of all new claims in Victoria — accounting for about 3370 claims in the 12 months to March.
But the figure is projected to reach 33 per cent by the end of the decade.
The healthcare, public administration and safety, education and training, manufacturing, transport, postal and warehousing sectors accounted for the majority of mental health injury claims.
Fewer than half of workers with a mental injury claim were back at work within six months compared with around three-quarters of workers who sustained a physical injury.
The government’s $550m lifeline is on top of $350m in WorkCover premium relief and exemptions provided last year to businesses which were part of JobKeeper scheme.
It means the WorkCover average target premium will remain at 1.272 per cent of remuneration next financial year.
While authorities are encouraged that workers are coming forward for help with mental health issues, they’ve identified a need to do more to prevent such problems happening.
The state government will provide $50m to help workplaces promote mental wellbeing and reduce the risk of mental injury among staff.
It in February this year introduced legislation so workers could get provisional payments while making a claim for work-related mental health injuries.
New regulations to provide clearer guidance to employers on their obligations to protect workers from mental injury were also being developed.
The government said the COVID-19 pandemic had compounded a reduction in WorkSafe premium payments and investment returns.