If you have been injured at work in New South Wales, you’ll likely come across the acronym IRO, short for Independent Review Office. In this podcast, Associate Melissa Arndell explains how IRO can help injured workers in NSW.
Dan: If you’ve been injured at work in New South Wales sooner rather than later, it’s likely that you’re going to hear the acronym IRO, which is short for the Independent Review Office, formerly known as the Worker’s Compensation Independent Review Office, or WIRO.
In today’s podcast, I’m with the Melissa Arndell, an associate at Bourke Legal and we’re talking about how IRO can help injured workers in New South Wales. Mel, we’ve spoken briefly about the Independent Review Office or IRO before. Can you remind our listeners what actually is the Independent Review Office?
Melissa: Sure. The Independent Review Office, IRO for short, has been around for over a decade in various forms. IRO was established on the first of March 2021, under the Personal Injury Commission Act, and it replaced WIRO, which was first established back in 2012.
Now, WIRO only dealt with workers’ compensation claims, whereas IRO has an expanded function and can assist both people injured at work as well as those injured in a motor vehicle accident.
Dan: So what exactly does IRO have the power to actually do?
Melissa: Sure. IRO has two main functions, I guess, that impact injured workers, Dan. Firstly, the Independent Legal Assistance and Review Service. Now it’s another abbreviation to ILARS that oversees a body of lawyers who can assist injured workers to understand and pursue their workers compensation entitlements.
This body of lawyers they’re referred to as approved lawyers, and they must have proven to IRO that they are experts in workers compensation law. IRO has a list of approved lawyers on its website, which, of course, includes all of the lawyers here at Bourke Legal.
Now, IRO or ILARS, I should say, provides funding for these approved lawyers to give legal advice, make claims on behalf of injured workers, and challenge the decisions of insurers. ILARS not only pays for all of these legal costs, which means that injured workers don’t have to, but IRO also pays for clinical notes, reports from treating an independent doctors, other things that will assist an injured worker’s claim.
Dan: Mel, that’s great that injured workers can get free legal advice. But what are some of the other functions of IRO?
Melissa: Well, IRO’s second main function, it’s called the IRO Solutions team. Now that team can deal with complaints about insurers from injured workers, and it can assist the parties to reach resolution of those complaints.
Dan, this is a lesser known function of IRO. Most people know about its funding component, but it’s also worthwhile knowing about the IRO Solutions Team. As in the first quarter of this year alone, IRO has actually dealt with about 2,000 complaints from injured workers.
IRO solutions may be able to assist an injured worker whose medical expenses are not being paid by the insurer, whose weekly benefits are continually paid late by the insurer, or whose claim for compensation or treatment made to the insurer has just not been responded to.
To make a complaint, an injured worker can call IRO on 1-3-9-4-7-6 or jump onto their website at www.iro.nsw.gov.au and complete an online form. IRO Solutions has a legislated period of 30 days to deal with the complaint, but in my experience, IRO will generally deal with these complaints quite promptly.
Sometimes the insurer will even respond or review their decision much more quickly when they’re contacted by IRO rather than the injured worker or their lawyer.
Dan: Mel, what are some examples of complaints that IRO solutions has been able to resolve?
Melissa: IRO reports on its outcomes, and it’s great to see the positive results that they achieve for injured workers.
One injured worker recently was advised by their insurer that they had been overpaid workers compensation benefits in an amount of almost $40,000, and you can appreciate the significant stress that would have put that particular worker under.
So IRO solutions provided a report to the insurer, they highlighted repeated inaccurate calculations, and they recommended the insurer consider waiving the overpayment, which the insurer ultimately did.
In another real life example, IRO solutions managed to get an insurer to approve six weeks at a rehabilitation facility following surgery, instead of the three weeks originally approved, and in another great result, IRO solutions were able to obtain a further $500 of workers’ compensation benefits per week for an injured worker whose insurer had not considered their secondary employment.
Dan: So I suppose the moral of the story is that IRO can actually help.
Melissa: Exactly, exactly, Dan. Although IRO cannot make decisions, that’s what the Personal Injury Commission is for. IRO can provide funding so that injured workers can receive legal advice, and they can get involved when there is a complaint between an injured worker and an insurer. IRO are happy to help, so I encourage injured workers to consider contacting them if the insurer isn’t doing the right thing by them.
Dan: Mel, are there circumstances where you would encourage people to contact you or one of the team at Bourke legal directly?
Melissa: Absolutely. Look, we’re always happy to speak with injured workers and give them some advice as to whether or not that’s something that we can assist with, or if they may get a better outcome by approaching IRO directly.
Sometimes it will be those small disputes with the insurer where it’s good to get IRO involved. For example, if it’s just in relation to a late payment of weekly benefits, for example. But otherwise, chat with us at any time, and we’ll be able to point you in the best direction.
Dan: Mel, thanks for joining me.
Melissa: Not a problem. Good to speak with you, as always, Dan.
Thanks for listening, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Bourke Legal on 1-300-026-875.