Tasmania's work safe regulator is not checking to see whether employers have workers compensation insurance, leaving injured workers without financial protections.
A short inquiry to examine participant safety in the racing industry has revealed some racing participants may be working without workers compensation protections, but more broadly, those working in small business may also be unprotected.
The inquiry, which has confirmed gaps in workplace injury laws, was called by Labor after a Tasmanian tribunal found trainer Ben Yole did not have a workers compensation policy.
It stemmed from a 2023 crash at Rowella involving Ben Yole's employees that resulted in serious passenger injury.
Probing at Tuesday's inquiry focused on:
- loopholes that allow small business racing employers to operate and race without workers compensation policy
- how many racing employers do not have such a policy, and
- when the state first became aware of the issue, and inaction to date.
Compliance of workers compensation insurance 'not possible'
WorkSafe Tasmania executive director Robyn Pearce said if there is a body responsible for ensuring compliance of holding a workers compensation policy then WorkSafe Tasmania would be it.
She said general small business compliance of workers compensation is impossible, but if a complaint was raised it would be investigated.
Under laws, it is the responsibility of business to have insurance, otherwise it will be in breach.
"There are 41,000 businesses, 98 per cent being small business. It is not possible as a regulator for us to consistently be inquiring with business whether or not a policy that they hold is adequate for the number of workers," Ms Pearce said.
When did racing authorities know about workers compensation issues?
WorkSafe Tasmania became aware Mr Yole did not have a workers compensation policy in January this year.
Labor says emails show TasRacing became aware in March and April, months ahead of the public revelation in November through the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision.
Do all current racing employers have valid workers compensation policy?
During scrutiny, it was revealed there are more than 90 thoroughbred trainers in Tasmania and between 30 to 35 are accessing workers compensation subsidy.
TasRacing no longer directly subsidises compensation, which is instead deducted from racing prize money pools.
When TasRacing was asked whether it knew how many in racing were operating without workers compensation policy, uncertainty was revealed.
TasRacing chief operating officer Dave Manshanden said 35 apply for workers compensation subsidy.
"We are not sure of the business arrangements for other trainers...whether they are employing staff," he said.
"Under the Racing Regulations Act we undertake licensing requirements but regulatory function of requirements sit outside of TasRacing under the current act."
Racing Minister Felix Ellis said greater education around the requirements for racing industry participants was needed, where some people may not be aware.
"A lot of regulators would acknowledge the importance of education, as well as enforcement and compliance," he said.
Review of insurance difficulties for Tasmanian racing industry
Office of Racing Integrity Justin Helmich was also questioned on compliance and whether audits of workers compensation take place.
He said an audit in 2021/2022 revealed "a high percentage of trainers" with a level of insurance coverage.
In the same year, he said TasRacing provided significant financial to trainers, "reinbursing the cost of insurance policy taken out by trainers".
A TasRacing representative within the inquiry said a review of workers compensation insurance would not be completed for at least another three months.
He said the brief of the review is to look at the cost and impost of workers compensation to racing participants.
"Our concerns with insurance is the level of increases that insurance has seen, that participants have seen, and some of their difficulty in getting it," he said.
"And how hard it is to continue with massive workers compensation claims."