NSW workers compensation return rate falls

David Shoebridge says it's a
David Shoebridge says it's a "dramatic failure" the post-compensation return to work rate has fallen

A decline in the return to work rate for people on workers' compensation in NSW has been branded a "dramatic failure" at a budget estimates hearing.

State Insurance Regulatory Authority CEO Adam Dent told the hearing the target for the state's nominal insurer iCare is a 70 per cent return-to-work rate four weeks after an injury.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said it was a "dramatic failure" that the actual rate had fallen from 76 per cent at the end of 2017 to 63 per cent in 2021.

NSW Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello said "there's always improvement to be made", which Mr Shoebridge called "the understatement of the year".

Mr Dominello agreed "it's definitely not good enough" and said there was no doubt his department had to do better.

A report on the return to work rate deleted from the SIRA website prompted accusations from Mr Shoebridge the government was trying to hide information, however Mr Dent denied that.

The report was deleted because it used a different methodology that made the numbers look worse than they were because they lacked the nuance to explain the decline.

The report was "inconsistent with the methodology we used to publish other information", he said.

Asked whether the decline warranted a "red alert" from the SIRA, Mr Dent said the criteria to make that claim was not as "objective and transparent" as he would like but "if I was going to pick a colour it would probably be red".

There was no prudential regulation for iCare and an independent review of the insurer had recommended expanding SIRA's powers to provide more oversight, he said.

Mr Dominello said he had hoped to get legislation to implement the review's recommendations into the house before the current parliamentary session ends next month.

That aim was why a public consultation period lasted only four weeks but that "isn't the only consultation we will be able to undertake and we will certainly take views for as long as we can", Mr Dent said.

He said he looked forward to receiving information from numerous stakeholders that had contacted opposition treasury spokesman Daniel Mookhey saying they needed more time.

Australian Associated Press