The Attorney-General's Department engaged Finity Consulting to conduct a review of the Seacare scheme.
The review will report on options to ensure arrangements for those captured by the scheme are contemporary, fit for purpose and sustainable. It will include consultation with stakeholders, including unions and employer representatives.
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Terms of reference
The Seacare scheme is a national work health and safety (WHS) and workers' compensation scheme that applies to a defined segment of the seafaring industry (approximately 3,900 employees). It is established by the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 (Seafarers Act) and the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1992 (OHS(MI) Act) as well as the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Levy Act 1992 and the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Levy Collection Act 1992 (the Levy Acts).
There are a number of critical issues undermining the ongoing sustainability of the Seacare scheme. Scheme employers and the Seafarers Safety Net Fund must be covered by compliant insurance policies. However, the availability of Seacare insurance is limited with an emerging trend of insurers pulling out of the Seacare market. Coupled with the majority of Seacare insurance policies due to expire by mid-July 2022 and the rising cost of Seacare insurance policies, these challenges may force some employers to seek an exemption from complying with the scheme, and shift to state and territory arrangements where appropriate. More broadly, these challenges create increasing uncertainty for those employers picked up by the scheme and the operation of the scheme going forward.
Further compounding these issues, since the Seacare scheme commenced in 1992, there have been substantial changes in Australia's WHS and compensation arrangements, but the Seacare scheme has not kept pace with these changes. WHS arrangements for seafarers under the OHS(MI) Act are out of step with Australia's harmonised laws, and key updates to Australia's compensation systems are not reflected in the Seafarers Act. The scheme also has complex coverage provisions and regulatory overlap with state and territory schemes which may lead to further uncertainty for some employers. In this context, the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, has requested an independent review of the Seacare scheme. The purpose of the review is to examine existing arrangements and engage with key stakeholders to identify reforms to ensure there are effective and sustainable WHS and workers' compensation entitlements, protections and obligations in place for employees and employers covered by the Seacare scheme.
- The review will report to the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations on:
- key options to comprehensively address the issues identified through the review, and ensure that effective and sustainable WHS and compensation arrangements are available for seafarers captured by the Seacare scheme
- the costs and benefits to industry and government of the identified options
- key operational and implementation issues associated with recommended options.
- The review will consider:
- how to best meet the needs of the modern Australian maritime industry in relation to WHS and compensation arrangements for employees and employers covered by the Seacare scheme
- the performance of the WHS and workers' compensation arrangements under the Seacare scheme in comparison to other Australian jurisdictions
- options to support sustainable coverage of workers' compensation liabilities for seafarers, considering the availability of private insurance coverage
- the regulatory and cost impact for maritime operators covered by the Seacare scheme when operating across multiple jurisdictions
- the effectiveness of the governance and administrative mechanisms supporting the scheme, including the role of the Seafarers Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority (Seacare Authority).
- Stakeholders will have the opportunity to meet with the independent reviewer and / or provide written submissions for consideration in their investigations.
- Stakeholders include, but are not limited to:
- the Seacare Authority and its members
- unions and employer representatives
- the private insurance sector, including insurance companies and brokers
- relevant Australian Government, state and territory agencies with responsibility for the maritime sector, and WHS and workers' compensation arrangements.
- Where appropriate, the reviewer will share information and analysis with the panel leading the Australian Government's independent review of domestic commercial vessel safety legislation, and costs and charging arrangements.
- The Attorney-General's Department will provide administrative support to the reviewer as required, and facilitate the provision of specialist advice where appropriate.
- The reviewer will provide a final report to the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations by 31 October 2022.