Management & accountability
Comcare aims for excellence in its governance to promote public trust and confidence.
Good governance for Comcare focuses on two key requirements:
- Performance—governance procedures and practices are designed to shape our results
- Accountability—governance procedures and practices are designed to demonstrate results to Comcare’s Executive, the government and stakeholders. Conform with applicable legislative and policy requirements in addition to the public expectations of transparency and integrity.
An established committee structure oversees the strategies and plans to improve our service delivery and capability. The key principles are:
- committed to continuous improvement, driving transformation throughout the organisation
- being performance orientated—planning for high performance through ambitious targets
- being transparent, innovative and collaborative in minimising harm in the workplace, both now and into the future.
Comcare hosts a number of external consultation forums and participates in a range of external meetings to provide expert advice or gain insight and perspective.
Comcare’s efforts are driven by our outcome—support participation and productivity through healthy and safe workplaces that minimise the impact of harm.
To deliver on our outcome in 2017–18, the Comcare 2017–18 Corporate Plan (Corporate Plan) focussed our efforts around four strategic priorities and purposes:
- leading insurer
- national regulator
- excellence in scheme management and design
- efficient and effective operations.
Our performance measures against each strategic priority cascades from the Corporate Plan through our operational, business groups, team and individual performance plans.
The Corporate Plan is the primary planning document that commenced our annual performance cycle for 2017–18. Planning culminates in the annual publication of:
- Comcare’s Corporate Plan for the next four years, inclusive of the non-financial performance measures
- Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS), which sets out resourcing arrangements and performance measures over the same four-year period.
Performance against the targets set out in the Corporate Plan and PBS are monitored, quarterly, by the Executive Committee and the Audit and Risk Committee.
In 2017–18, Comcare implemented an approach to strengthening our research and innovation capability—a strategy to enhance knowledge of current and emerging trends, and address challenges that could influence the future of workers’ compensation and, health and safety regulation.
Under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act), Comcare is a corporate Commonwealth entity with a Chief Executive Officer as the Accountable Authority. The CEO is assisted in the corporate governance functions by Comcare’s Executive team:
- Deputy CEO/General Manager Corporate Management
- General Manager Regulatory Operations
- General Manager Scheme Management
- General Manager Claims Management
- General Manager Insurance
- General Manager Strategic Research and Innovation.
The Executive Committee, comprising the CEO and general managers, is directly responsible and accountable to the CEO in relation to:
- statutory obligations—recommending to the CEO or delegating the exercise of their legislative delegations for the administration of Comcare
- corporate administration—making decisions on policy or actions to be taken with regard to Comcare’s:
- people and culture
- assets and property
- information systems and records management
- compliance issues—including legislative and government policy obligations
- marketing and communications
- external scrutiny
- corporate governance, including reports from subsidiary committees
- external relationships, including the Minister, Department of Employment, Australian Public Service Commission, and Department of Finance.
Other committees directly responsible to the CEO, reporting through the Executive Committee, are:
- People Committee
- Technology and Information Management Committee
- Finance and Investment Committee
- National Health and Safety Committee
- Security Committee.
The CEO has established the Comcare and Seacare Authority Audit and Risk Committee in accordance with section 45 of the PGPA Act. The objective of the committee is to provide independent assurance and assistance to Comcare’s CEO on risk, the control and compliance framework, and external accountability responsibilities.
For 2017–18, the Audit and Risk Committee consisted of four independent members, including the Chairperson appointed by the CEO. Comcare’s senior executive, the Chief Financial Officer, internal audit officers and the ANAO regularly attend as observers.
Table 17: Attendance at Audit and Risk Committee meetings 2017–18
Position in Comcare
Eligible to attend
Independent Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee
Independent Member of the Audit and Risk Committee
Independent Member of the Audit and Risk Committee
Dr Mike Vertigan
Independent Member of the Audit and Risk Committee
Lisa Woolmer (Audit and Risk Committee Member and Chair)
Lisa Woolmer has a background in audit and accounting, including 22 years of professional services experience advising on governance, risk and assurance frameworks.
In her professional services career, Lisa worked extensively with federal, state and local government agencies, and across areas such as health, education, emergency services, water, gas and financial services. In addition to the ACT and Victoria, Lisa has worked in Tokyo and New York.
Lisa is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a qualified accountant. She holds a Bachelor of Economics and Diploma in Japanese Business Communication from Monash University, and a Graduate Diploma in Employment Relations from the University of Canberra.
Lisa is also an Independent Audit Committee member for the Office of Public Prosecutions (Victoria), the Cities of Glen Eira, Whitehorse and Bayside (Melbourne). Lisa chairs the Audit and Risk Committees for the Mornington Peninsula Shire and Adult Community and Further Education Board (Victoria).
Graham Bashford (Audit and Risk Committee Member)
Graham Bashford is the Managing Director of Bashford Consulting, a company specialising in strategic advice and business development to both private sector and public-sector organisations. Before this, Graham was the Deputy CEO of Centrelink for many years, with responsibility for running its network of 26 000 employees, delivering $64 billion worth of benefits to six million customers annually.
Graham has worked for the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and has expertise in the government insurance sector. His contribution to the Audit Committee is from a government insurance operational perspective, having led the operational recovery of the ACC for two years. Graham is the independent chair of the Audit and Review Committee of the Community Services Directorate of the ACT. He also holds a Bachelor of Science Honours in Physical Metallurgy.
Kate Hughes (Audit and Risk Committee Member)
Kate Hughes is the Chief Audit and Risk Officer at RMIT, with responsibility for the University’s internal audit, risk management, compliance and regulatory affairs functions.
Prior to this Kate was the Chief Risk Officer at Telstra, with global responsibility for the enterprise wide risk management, resilience, investigations, privacy, compliance and health and safety functions.
Kate has led international teams for 15 years and she has broad risk management, compliance, safety and governance experience in many sectors, including financial services, agribusiness, retail, manufacturing, public administration and telecommunications. Kate has also provided risk management and compliance consulting services on trade practices, employment and environmental issues.
Kate is a member of the VicRoads Risk and Audit Governance Committee, holding tertiary qualifications in commerce, applied finance and OH&S, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Dr Michael Vertigan AC (Audit and Risk Committee Member)
Dr Michael Vertigan AC brings a wealth of experience and high-level expertise in the private and public-sector finance and superannuation markets, as well as significant public administration experience. Dr Vertigan has held numerous senior financial and state public service positions in Tasmania and Victoria and is a former secretary of the treasury and finance departments in those states, secretary of Tasmania’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, and former chancellor of the University of Tasmania.
Since 1998 Dr Vertigan has held a variety of senior board appointments, including the Chair position, across different business areas, and has also chaired a number of Government expert panels. In 2004 Mike was awarded the Companion, Order of Australia Medal for his service to public administration, education and business and industry. Dr Vertigan is currently a Director of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation and is the chair of the CSC Audit and Risk Committee.
Comcare is fully committed to complying with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework 2014 (Fraud Control Framework) (in particular section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014) to minimise the incidence of fraud.
Comcare’s CEO has certified that we:
- prepare fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans
- have in place appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and data collection procedures and processes that meet our specific needs
- take all reasonable measures to minimise the incidence of fraud and investigate and recover the proceeds of fraud against Comcare.
Comcare’s Compliance Investigation Team investigators are authorised by the CEO to undertake investigations of criminal fraud and non-compliance regarding the claims and liability management functions of Comcare. All criminal fraud investigations are conducted in compliance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework and the Australian Government Investigations Standards 2011.
During 2017–18, the Compliance Investigation Unit received 152 referrals for investigation, compared with 146 notifications in 2016–17 and a historical average of 110 notifications. The nine matters that were finalised in the 2017–18 year resulted in a reduction of $3.7 million in claim liabilities.
There were two matters before the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution (CDPP) for prosecution and sentencing during the reporting period. Both matters are before the courts.
Comcare continues to actively participate in the annual Commonwealth Fraud Liaison Forum. The forum is jointly managed by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Federal Police.
Comcare acts in a lawful manner that is consistent with relevant legislation and guidelines. A cost/benefit analysis is used to determine whether covert surveillance should be undertaken in conjunction with privacy obligations. During 2017–18, covert surveillance was undertaken on 25 APS employees.
The internal audit programme is a key element of the Comcare corporate governance framework. The programme provides assurance to the Audit and Risk Committee, the CEO and senior management. It adds value to what Comcare does by highlighting opportunities for improvement in statutory compliance, internal control, and efficiency and effectiveness of business processes.
Internal audit topics are identified through consultation with senior management and the Audit and Risk Committee. In deciding the final programme of internal audit work for the year, the Audit and Risk Committee take into account, the strategic and operational risk profile of Comcare and relevant audit reports published by the ANAO. The final programme included proposed topics for 2018–19 and 2019–20 to identify potential future audit coverage and inform the development of subsequent internal audit programmes in conjunction with findings arising from the programme and changes to Comcare’s risk profile.
Comcare increased the volume and scope of the Internal Audit Programme in 2017–18. As a result, twelve internal audits were presented to the Audit and Risk Committee in 2017–18, compared to eight in 2016–17. The audits completed covered the following topics:
- management and governance of cost recovery
- notices issued under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- claims management reporting
- secure claims
- security clearance review for staff and contractors
- workforce planning
- recoveries of claims overpayments
- consistency in processes across state offices: Inspectorate
- finance controls for legal expenditure
- project management office
- Regulatory Operations evaluation of service delivery activities.
Recommendations arising from internal audits are tracked and reported to the Audit and Risk Committee to ensure accountability for addressing identified risks. During 2017–18 there were 59 recommendations, 33 are closed, 14 remain on track for completion by the original due date and 12 have revised due dates for completion.
Comcare has embedded systematic risk management as part of its governance and planning processes and organisational culture. Comcare’s particular focus is on:
- establishing a high-quality agency-wide risk management system
- providing comprehensive training and development on risk
- evaluating and improving risk performance
- strengthening engagement with stakeholders on risk issues.
Comcare’s business planning framework is underpinned by strategic and group risk plans. Ongoing risk management is the responsibility of all Comcare Executive members. The Audit and Risk Committee reviews the risk management framework annually and regularly reviews strategic and group risk registers.
Comcare relies on a range of strategies to address risks, including managing stakeholder relationships, implementing sound project management and contract management practices, and building workforce capability. Comcare has seen sustained reductions in its insurance premiums due to its increased focus on risk management.
Comcare received no Ministerial Directions in 2017–18.
Comcare complied with the General Policy Order Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (Charging for Regulatory Activities) issued by the Minister for Finance on 24 August 2017.
In 2017–18, there were no reports of any significant issues reported to the Minister by Comcare under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the PGPA Act.
Comcare is required to publish information to the public as part of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) Information Publication Scheme (IPS). The IPS replaces the former annual report publication requirements in section 8 of the FOI Act.
Comcare’s Agency Plan and other categories of information specified by the IPS are available on the Access to information page on the Comcare website.
During 2017–18, Comcare received 243 freedom of information requests which is a 60 per cent increase compared with the previous financial year.
Comcare received five requests for amendment or annotation of personal records.
Of the requests received:
- full access was granted in 58 cases
- partial access was granted in 71 cases
- access was refused in 75 cases
- applicants withdrew their request in 13 cases
- one case was transferred to another agency.
Comcare received nine requests for internal review of access and amendment decisions. The original decision was affirmed in five of the reviews completed. One review was withdrawn.
Comcare is committed to meeting the highest standards when collecting, storing, using and disclosing personal information with all staff completing privacy training annually. Comcare primarily collects, uses and discloses personal information as reasonably necessary for, or directly related to its functions and activities under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).
Business areas are required to notify the Privacy team of any potential privacy breaches. During 2017–18, 181 notifications of potential breaches were received. Investigations concluded that breaches had occurred in 88 cases. This is a reduction of almost 50 per cent compared with the previous financial year.
No breaches were reportable under the Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme.
Comcare’s Feedback team receives compliments and complaints from stakeholders about its service provision, including the performance of licensee claims management.
During the 2017–18 financial year Comcare received 506 complaints compared to 468 in 2016–17. This represents an 8 per cent increase from the previous financial year.
Table 18: The most frequent categories of complaints during 2017–18
Percentage of total
Claims management process
Determinations and reconsiderations
Claims Management Pilot complaints
During 2017–18 Comcare received 53 complaints relating to the Claims Management Pilot Programme with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The 53 complaints accounts for 10 per cent of all complaints received which represents a 22 per cent decrease on the previous year.
During 2017–18, Comcare received 113 compliments on the services provided compared to 73 in 2016–17. This represents a 55 per cent increase from the previous year.
In 2017, Comcare piloted an Alternate Dispute Resolution Process (ADR) for claims related disputes, known as in-house facilitation (IHF). The process is one that brings parties in a claims related dispute together, with a view to resolving the issues through a facilitated discussion and developing a mutually agreeable outcome.
Since its introduction there have been 22 facilitations and of these 81 per cent reached agreement or were resolved.
We review outcomes to inform our continuous improvement. This ensures we deliver the best outcomes for our stakeholders.
No external audits were conducted during 2017–18.
The JCPAA required a report on how Comcare has embed the corporate planning requirements to address the identified ‘opportunities for improvement’ from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Audit Report No. 54 of 2016–17.
We continued to mature our Corporate Plan in accordance with recommendations from the ANAO performance audit—Corporate Planning in the Australian Public Sector—as tabled in Parliament on 1 June 2017.
The audit assessed four commonwealth entities’ corporate plans for the 2016–17 reporting period, and adopted the following high-level audit criteria:
- the selected entities’ corporate plans were established as their primary planning document and outline how entities intended to achieve their purposes over the period of the plans
- the selected entities’ corporate plans met the minimum content and publication requirements of the PGPA Rule 2014
- entities’ supporting systems and processes for developing their corporate plans and monitoring achievements against their plans are mature.
The audit found that Comcare was meeting the criteria. The improvement opportunities were identified and fully implemented in the development of Comcare Corporate Plan 2018–2022.
Comcare has partnered with Department of Finance (DoF) to ensure its corporate plans and annual performance statements continually improve. In following the continuous improvement process adopting ANAO recommendations and DoF feedback, Comcare’s business planning has matured significantly. This resulted in Comcare publishing a high-quality corporate plan in June 2018, being the second commonwealth agency to complete the corporate plan process.
The Information Commissioner received eight requests for reviews of FOI decisions made by Comcare. Three reviews were finalised as follows:
- closed by OAIC with no comments made
- withdrawn following section 55G decision
- comcare’s decision affirmed
One matter was finalised by a decision at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Lever and Comcare  AATA 1089 (27 April 2018)
Mr Lever had sought a review of Comcare’s FOI decision dated 7 August 2013 in relation to adequacy of search. Specifically, Comcare’s failure to release the AAT file and files held by the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS). During the review, Comcare provided the AAT files. In his decision Cowdroy DP directed that Comcare grant the applicant access to all documents held by AGS over which it has constructive possession.
Six privacy complaints were made to the OAIC. Six were closed as follows:
- In relation to one complaint, Comcare paid $5000 compensation to the complainant when Comcare disclosed sensitive personal information not related to her compensable condition to her employer.
- Four complaints were closed when the OAIC declined to investigate as no breach by Comcare.
- One complaint was closed as Comcare had adequately dealt with the matter.
Comcare received 11 formal investigation enquiries from the Commonwealth Ombudsman in 2017–18. This result is a 21 per cent decline from the 2016–17 reporting period, and 45 per cent decline from the 2015–16 reporting period.
Seven investigations were finalised with the Commonwealth Ombudsman deciding, in all cases, that no further review of the matters was warranted.
This includes any judicial decisions that had, or may have, a significant effect on Comcare’s operations.
Comcare v Wuth  FCAFC 13
This matter concerns how ‘normal weekly earnings’ are calculated under s 8(1) of the SRC Act.
The Full Federal Court held that 'the average number of hours worked in each week … during the relevant period’ is to be determined by reference to the number of hours actually worked by the employee, rather than the hours agreed with the employer.
Comcare v Starkey  FCAFC 151
This matter concerns the payment of compensation under the SRC Act where state workers’ compensation has already been paid.
The Full Federal Court upheld the Tribunal’s decision that Mrs Starkey had received state workers’ compensation for a different injury than the one for which she made a dependency claim under the SRC Act. The High Court denied Comcare’s application for special leave to appeal on the basis that the Tribunal decision turned on its facts, and raised no question of principle of general importance that would warrant the grant of special leave.
We offer our people diverse, meaningful and challenging work Australia wide. We work in a collaborative environment where we share information and learnings to achieve the best outcomes.
At 30 June 2018 Comcare had 637 employees based in various locations in Australia which included Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle, Adelaide and Perth.
In comparison to 2016–17, our workforce has:
- decreased in total headcount by 0.6 per cent from 641 to 637 employees
- increased the proportion of employees identifying as having a disability by 1.4 per cent, from 14 to 23 employees.
Table 19: Comcare workforce profile—1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018
Number of employees
Full-time equivalent employees
Diversity of workforce2
(percentage of total workforce)
(405 of 641)
Women in leadership
EL2 and SES
(23 of 50)
People with disability
(14 of 641)
(23 of 637)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
(7 of 641)
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) employees*
(104 of 641)
(102 of 637)
Data based on paid headcount
*The 2016–17 figure has been updated to reflect the new definition of CALD (previously non-english speaking background)
2 Workforce diversity data relies on self-identification.
Table 20: Staffing headcount by classification
30 June 2017
30 June 2018
Graduate APS 4
APS Level 1
APS Level 2
APS Level 3
APS Level 4
APS Level 5
APS Level 6
Executive Level 1
Executive Level 2
Legal Adviser APS 4
Legal Adviser APS 5
Legal Adviser APS 6
Senior Legal Adviser (EL1)
Principal Legal Adviser (EL2)
SES Band 1
SES Band 2
The Comcare People Plan 2016–2019 (People Plan) sets the strategic direction across all aspects of people management. It continues our commitment to building a capable and high performing workforce to deliver on organisational objectives, both now and in the future.
Key People Plan activities completed in 2017–18 include:
- implementation of Aurion web recruitment
- HR system enhancements including upgrade to Aurion 11 and implementation of workflow
- further refinement and maturation of the Capability Framework
- continued refinement and implementation of the Leadership Development Series
- continued refinement and development of individual business area Workforce Plans.
Comcare’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2017–2020 (the Strategy) demonstrates Comcare’s commitment to the principles of equity and diversity, ensuring that all Australians have access to relevant Comcare services and programs, and that our workforce is representative of the broader Australian Community.
The Strategy continues Comcare’s journey by providing direction and identifying priorities to support workforce diversity and inclusion. The priority areas were determined through the analysis of Comcare’s workforce data, Comcare’s organisational objectives and Government strategies. They include:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
- mature aged employees
- people with a disability.
The Strategy aims to create a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that supports and champions difference and ensures everyone has equal opportunity to participate, contribute and achieve their full potential.
To increase diversity and inclusion in Comcare, we have identified actions that apply across all diversity groups in our Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. The actions in the Plan were developed to assist in building and supporting a diverse culture which includes employees from all diversity groups including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI+) and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD). In addition to these actions, specific deliverables for the identified diversity priority areas were also included.
The Strategy is also supported by the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and Accessibility Action Plan (AAP).
Key achievements in line with the Strategy include:
- Indigenous Cultural Awareness training was piloted with seven courses run across our offices. Approval and funding for rolling out the training to all employees was obtained.
- Participation in a range of employment programs designed to support employees who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander or as having a disability, including:
- Australian Government Indigenous Lateral Entry (AGILE)
- 2018-2019 Indigenous Australian Government Development Program (IAGDP)
- Indigenous Entry Level Apprenticeships Program (IAP)
- 2019 Australian Government Indigenous Graduate Recruitment Program (AGIGRP)
- Australian Network on Disability Stepping Into Program.
- Commenced advertising all Comcare vacancies on the Indigenous Employment Australia (IEA) website.
- Implementation of the Women in Leadership Program. Throughout 2017–18, Women in Leadership seminars were held with female leaders coming into Comcare’s offices and sharing their experiences from their professional career with all employees.
Comcare's Diversity Working Group is a team of employee volunteers who are passionate about diversity in Comcare. Working Group members have an important role in promoting and supporting Comcare's diversity plans. Comcare has appointed a senior manager as a Diversity Champion who provides leadership and support for diversity initiatives and acts as sponsor for the Diversity Working Group.
The Working Group is responsible for developing Comcare’s Diversity Calendar and coordinating identified events.
Events that were celebrated in 2017–18 include:
- NAIDOC week
- Wear It Purple Day
- R U OK? Day
- International Day of Older Persons
- World Mental Health Day
- World Aids Day
- International Day of People with Disability
- Harmony Day
- World Health Day
- International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia
- National Reconciliation Week.
The Comcare Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019 (Enterprise Agreement) sets out the terms and conditions of employment and salary scales for APS employees working at Comcare. It applies to all ongoing and non-ongoing APS employees at the APS1 to Executive Level 2 levels. The Enterprise Agreement provides remuneration increases of 6 per cent over three years, with the last 2 per cent increase being paid in 2017–18.
The current Enterprise Agreement is due to expire in April 2019. Work will soon commence on establishing new workplace arrangements that are consistent with the APSC’s Workplace Bargaining Policy and meet our legislative obligations.
The CEO determines the terms and conditions of employment for SES employees in Comcare. Determinations are based on individual capability and job requirements and are made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.
Table 21: Salary ranges for employees—at 30 June 2018
Executive Level 2 (or equivalent)
Executive Level 1 (or equivalent)
APS Level 6 (or equivalent)
APS Level 5 (or equivalent)
APS Level 4 (or equivalent)
APS Level 3 (or equivalent)
APS Level 2 (or equivalent)
APS Level 1 (or equivalent)
Reward and recognition plays an important role in shaping Comcare's culture by:
- recognising and rewarding outstanding performance, achievements, client service and innovation
- encouraging and supporting teamwork, cooperation, collaboration and pride throughout Comcare
- supporting and encouraging a performance culture throughout Comcare
- contributing to a more productive and satisfying work environment.
The Comcare Reward and Recognition Policy provides the framework under which we recognise and reward the efforts and achievements of individuals and teams. This policy reflects a culture of demonstrating appreciation and recognition of employees at all levels, and across all areas of the organisation.
The policy aims to reinforce many of the priorities outlined in the Comcare People Plan and provides a framework to:
- encourage greater teamwork, cooperation and pride in our organisation
- demonstrate positive workplace behaviours
- promote innovative thinking and initiative
- motivate people to make meaningful contributions
- support a performance-based culture
- commemorate the achievement of significant service to the APS.
Comcare’s Australia Day Awards are supported by the National Australia Day Council and signify the highest level of recognition for our employees. The awards acknowledge people who go above and beyond the requirements of their roles and consistently demonstrate excellence. Recipients join a celebrated group of APS employees who have made a national contribution in the course of their service. On Wednesday 24 January 2018, two teams and five individuals were presented Australia Day Awards recognising their achievements in the categories of Leadership, Innovation and Collaboration.
Comcare CEO Awards were presented on Monday 3 July 2017. These awards recognise high performing teams and individuals who have consistently gone above and beyond expectations to achieve a significant positive impact for the organisation, employees with workplace injuries or illnesses, colleagues or other key stakeholders. In total, three individuals and two teams received a CEO Award in 2017. This award ceremony also offers an opportunity to recognise employee’s contributions and service to the Australian Public Service (APS) by presenting employees who have reached 25 years APS service with a certificate of recognition. In 2017 four employees were recognised.
Improving leadership across all aspects of Comcare’s business continued to be a priority area and was identified in the Comcare 2017–18 Corporate Plan and People Plan 2016–19. The Leadership Development Series (the Leadership Series) was based on the four cultural priority areas:
- being trusted, empowered and accountable
- having commitment and focus
- being collaborative
- being a learning organisation.
In 2018 the Leadership Series was rolled out to all APS6 employees and APS5 employees whose nomination to attend was supported by their General Manager building further leadership capability across the organisation. Employees participate in pre-workshop activities, four-half day workshops and post-workshop sessions to assist with continuous learning.
The Mentoring Programme continues to contribute to the ongoing development of employees’ leadership skills and capability across all levels of Comcare. The programme also supports collaboration by creating mentoring partnerships across business areas.
Throughout 2017–18, a functional alignment was undertaken to bring all internal learning and development functions into one centrally located team. This further supports a cohesive approach to learning and development and allows a more strategic and consistent approach to occur across the organisation. The People, Property and Security team remain focused on building capability across Comcare by delivering a suite of organisation wide learning programmes targeted to capability needs identified through Performance Development Plans (PDPs) and Workforce Planning discussions.
These are delivered through the Comcare learning and development training calendar. Corporate fundamental training continues to be a requirement to ensure all employees are aware of their corporate responsibilities as a Comcare employee, including work health and safety responsibilities.
Throughout 2017–18, 235 courses were run. These courses included the Leadership Series, SRC Act Legislative Training Modules, Corporate Fundamentals, Indigenous Cultural Awareness training and a range of other courses to meet organisational development needs.
Leadership is a strategic theme in the People Plan 2016–2019 with the outcome—’everyone in Comcare models leadership behaviours that drive and facilitate high performance’. The development of consistent leadership capability supports the achievement of Comcare’s business and cultural initiatives.
The Leadership Development Series is an important initiative focused around our four cultural priority areas. In improving leadership across Comcare we are achieving a One Comcare culture that is open, collaborative and innovative.
Work health and safety management
Comcare is committed to the health, safety and wellbeing of its employees.
We realise this commitment through the continued development and implementation of our work health and safety (WHS) and injury management system processes, strategic plan and the health and wellbeing programme. Furthermore, this commitment is reflected in the 2017 Australian Public Service (APS) Employee Census where Comcare had achieved an overall wellbeing index result of 84 per cent, which was 22 per cent higher than the APS average and 16 per cent higher than medium sized agencies.
Throughout the year, Comcare undertook various initiatives to ensure it provides a healthy and safe workplace, which included:
- participation in a study investigating the effectiveness of software-based prompts influencing sit/stand desk usage
- delivery of health and wellness program events
- training employees in mental health first aid
- reviewing and monitoring of our WHS management system
- modernisation of WHS training material and distribution of awareness material
- an ergonomic review of its regulatory case management software
- piloting a global positioning system (GPS) communication system for our field work activities
- conducting quarterly workplace inspections.
In the previous two annual reports, Comcare reported on its participation in a long-term study into the effectiveness of software-based prompts influencing sit/stand desk usage. In October 2017, Comcare finalised its participation in the study by providing the final dataset. Currently the study is undergoing a peer review process and is anticipated for release in 2018–19.
Comcare believes in empowering its employees to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into their daily lives and provides support in the form of a health and wellbeing reimbursement. In 2017–18, 78 per cent of eligible employees claimed this reimbursement and continue making healthy lifestyle choices outside of the workplace.
There have also been a number of health and wellbeing activities that occurred throughout the 2017–18 period. These included:
- Comcare provided voluntary health checks that focused on addressing physical activity, mental health, nutritional health, alcohol consumption, smoking and other modifiable chronic disease risk factors. One hundred and sixty-one (161) employees participated in this national event and 10 per cent of these were referred to their treating medical practitioner for further investigation.
- Comcare held a six-week, 10 000 steps challenge during National Safe Work Month, to promote the importance of being physically active. During this period, 195 employees achieved a combined total of 88,521,961 steps.
- Comcare provided its employees access to an annual influenza vaccination. For the 2017–18 period, 260 employees received the vaccination.
- Comcare invited a guest speaker for World Mental Health Day, to talk about their personal experience in overcoming adversity and creating an initiative that contributes towards improving the lives of others.
To ensure support is provided to our employees, Comcare provided mental health first aid training for at least one team member from each team across the organisation. These team members now make up Comcare’s Mental Health Contact Officer network. The establishment and promotion of this contact network is believed to have enhanced employee awareness, as reflected by a 38.46 per cent increase in mental health incidents reported from 2016–17. Furthermore, of the incidents reported during 2017–18, 64 per cent of these were proactive in nature.
In December 2017, Comcare was awarded gold accreditation status in the Mental Health First Aid Australia Skilled Workplaces Initiative. Comcare is proud to be the first Australian Government agency to be awarded this accreditation.
During 2017–18, Comcare continued to review work health and safety management with 10 management system documents being reviewed. This systematic review process and ongoing process implementation had contributed to Comcare observing an audit conformance rate of 94 per cent, which is an increase of 15.91 per cent from the previous audit report.
During 2017–18, Comcare invested resources in digitising WHS training materials into an eLearning format. Key topics include:
- Effective Health and Safety Committees, which is intended to provide our health and safety committee members with the necessary knowledge to effectively perform their responsibilities—83 per cent of Comcare’s health and safety committee members have completed the training.
- WHS Responsibilities and Risk Management. This unit is a corporate fundamental for all APS 6 – EL 2 employees and is designed to increase their knowledge of WHS legislation and our internal WHS risk management processes—91 per cent of the APS 6–EL 2 employees have completed the training.
Customer aggression is a primary risk for the organisation and as such employees who perform frontline services are provided biennial Managing Aggressive and Distress Customer training. It is believed this training has strengthened employee resilience, which is reflected by 92 per cent of reported customer aggression incidents not resulting in harm.
In September 2017, Comcare launched its monthly WHS Team Talk programme. Comcare has empowered managers to select an appropriate WHS team talk relevant to their team’s WHS risk profile and to facilitate a team discussion. Overall, Comcare achieved an average implementation rate of 83.5 per cent.
During 2017–18, Comcare had completed 100 per cent of its quarterly workplace inspections at all office locations. A total of 183 corrective actions were identified, with 70 per cent of these relating to property issues, e.g. light globe replacement.
In late 2017–18, Comcare commenced a trial of a GPS communication device to enhance our emergency management arrangements for our employees undertaking field work in remote environments. Undertaking this pilot will strengthen Comcare’s compliance with relevant WHS legislation requirements. An evaluation of this trial will be undertaken in 2018–19.
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP), provided by Assure Programs, provides telephone and face‑to‑face access to confidential individual counselling that supports the psychological wellbeing of employees and their families. In addition to individual counselling, a Manager’s Hotline, online information, onsite trauma and critical incident counselling, conflict resolution and mediation support services are available.
In 2017–18 the EAP usage rate (new referrals) was 10.94 per cent of the total Comcare workforce for the nine-month period, with a predicted annual usage rate of 14.58 per cent at the conclusion of the 12-month reporting period in October 2018. The percentage of Comcare employees attending was 83 per cent, with 17 per cent of consultations for non-Comcare employees.
The primary reasons for accessing this service, was personal (71 per cent) and work-related issues (29 per cent). These figures indicate that of those employees accessing the EAP, personal issues continue to be the significant factor for attendance.
Comcare continues to focus on reducing injury claims through active injury prevention strategies and provision of early intervention. The early intervention programme provides timely and tailored support to employees and includes provision of short-term treatment (physical or psychological), access to EAP support, workplace rehabilitation providers, workplace assessments and fitness for duty medical assessments.
As part of the early intervention programme, Comcare provides workstation assessments for all new employees upon commencement, with 112 conducted in 2017–18. During 2017–18, 147 assessments were conducted for existing employees reporting pain or discomfort as a prevention strategy.
Comcare’s early intervention programme, including a mandatory early intervention training course and new starter workstation assessments, continues to be assessed as the likely cause for the reduction in workers’ compensation claims in 2017–18.
During the reporting period Comcare notified the regulator of one notifiable incident and was not involved in any statutory enforcements or investigations.
In total there was one workers’ compensation claim for Comcare employees accepted in 2017–18. This is a 75 per cent decrease from the four accepted claims in 2016–17. The average weeks lost time decreased from 10.6 weeks in 2016–17 to 0.2 weeks in 2017–18. The table below compares Comcare’s claims performance, average claim cost, and lost time with the ‘all Australian Government’ average in the years 2014–15 to 2017–18.
Table 22: Comcare workers’ compensation claim performance—at 30 June 2018
Total likely future cost
Average likely future cost
Average likely future cost
Average cost to date
Average cost to date
Total weeks lost
Average weeks lost
Average weeks lost
3 Claims received in the financial year period.
Comcare achieved another outstanding financial result in 2017-18 that places the premium scheme in an even stronger position.
After returning to a fully funded position in 2016–17, Comcare has seen a further decrease in premium claims liabilities of $228.8 million, which has improved Comcare’s funding ratio from 102 per cent to 116 per cent.
The favourable result is due to Comcare’s continued efforts to be the leading workers’ compensation insurer, and by investment in initiatives that have driven better return to work outcomes, implementing improvements in claims management and a placing greater focus on return to and recovery at work. Comcare’s continued focus on delivering improvement in efficiency has seen administration costs from business-as-usual operations reduce in 2017–18.
Cost recovery revenue from regulatory contributions and licence fees remained at a similar level to the previous year.
Table 23: Comcare financial operating result
Workers’ compensation premiums
Other cost-recovery revenue
Interest and other revenue
Revenue from government
(business as usual)
Administration expenses (projects)
Surplus of revenue over expenses
Movement in claims provisions and appropriations receivable
Provisions for outstanding claims liabilities
Available funding from movement in claims provisions
Surplus/(deficit) on continuing operations
Cash and cash equivalents
* available funding reduced due to favourable movements in premium and common law asbestos-related claims provision.
In 2017–18 the financial performance of Comcare’s premium insurance operations has strengthened significantly, with the funding ratio improving from 102 per cent to 116 per cent.
The favourable result was achieved through growth in premium scheme assets and a reduction in premium liabilities.
Premium scheme assets increased from $2 475.9 million to $2 544.4 million (by $68.4 million) due to lower benefit payment and administration expenses, and from the notional return earned on Comcare Retained Funds.
Premium scheme liabilities reduced from $2 420.7 million to $2 191.9 million (by $228.8 million) due to:
- ongoing reductions in new claims
- a fall in short and long-term continuance rates
- lower claims payments.
New claims continue to fall and are down 32 per cent over the past five years, while the number of open claims reduced by 33 per cent over that period.
This represents the third successive year in which Comcare has achieved a release in the valuation of outstanding premium claims liabilities.
Due to the strong financial results in recent years, Comcare has significantly reduced premiums and in 2018–19 Comcare was able to reduce the average Commonwealth premium rate to 1.06 per cent, which exceeded the Budget target of 1.1 per cent.