Small business and WorkCover: making it easier

WorkCover NSW acknowledges the valuable contribution of the following parties to the development of this strategy document:

  • Australian Industry Group
  • Australian Retailers Association
  • Housing Industry Association
  • Master Builders Association
  • NSW Business Chamber
  • NSW Farmers
  • Office of the Small Business Commissioner
  • Pharmacy Guild of Australia
  • Restaurant and Catering Association.


The NSW Government knows that small business is a key foundation of our economy and community, and is committed to delivering quality services that meet its needs. The government has set out this commitment in NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one.

In line with that plan, government agencies are working hard to make things easier for small business in NSW – and WorkCover is no exception. In 2013 we have:

  1. reduced red tape for small business around workers compensation insurance
  2. introduced cincentives for small employers to keep their workers safe, and to help injured workers return to work early and safely
  3. developed a program offering financial support for businesses with five or less employees that offer suitable work to injured workers.

Building on these steps, we have been working closely with industry, business and the Office of the Small Business Commissioner to develop a strategy to make it easier for small businesses to build and maintain safe and healthy work environments and meet their workers compensation and return to work responsibilities.

This strategy document reflects that consultation and sets out how WorkCover can best serve and support small businesses in NSW.

WorkCover is listening to small business, and the message is clear – through improved communication and service delivery, WorkCover will help small businesses to be safer, more efficient and more competitive, which will in turn deliver a range of financial and social benefits to the NSW economy and community.

Newman signature

Julie Newman PSM
Chief Executive Officer
WorkCover NSW

Julie Newman PSM Chief Executive Officer WorkCover NSW

July 2013

Small business and WorkCover

Small business is the backbone of the NSW economy, with 680,000 small businesses (including non-employing businesses) forming links between the community, medium to large business and government. Small business is therefore at the heart of the NSW Government's NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one, which aims to rebuild the economy, return quality services, renovate infrastructure, restore accountability to government, and strengthen our local environment and communities.

WorkCover administers and regulates work health and safety, workers compensation insurance, and work injury management, including returning injured workers to work. WorkCover knows that small businesses with limited time resources, may face challenges in addressing work health and safety matters, workers compensation, and working out what to do if one of their workers gets injured. The introduction of new work health and safety laws in 2011, and reforms to workers compensation laws during 2012, mean that small businesses need support to understand what these changes mean for them. Recognising this, WorkCover is committed to transforming its approach to providing service and advice to small businesses.

Understanding small business – where we are now

Work health and safety, workers compensation and return to work can be complicated matters. With the small business sector including a wide variety of industries and business structures at various stages of development, there are challenges for WorkCover in providing tailored information and services that meet everyone's needs.

However small business operators say that getting access to relevant and targeted advice can make it a lot easier to manage their work health and safety responsibilities; they generally do not have time or resources to search for information that is relevant to their business.

Having limited time and resources also means that undue red tape has an especially high impact on small business.

WorkCover understands that small business:

  • is a significant economic driver in NSW
  • is diverse in its structure and segmentation
  • is impacted by regulatory burden
  • wants tailored advice and information.

Making it easier – where we want to be

Building a service focused culture, stronger relationships with business and industry associations will support the development of information and advice that is relevant and targeted to the wide variety of different business types.

WorkCover will use NSW Government's 'better regulation principles' in focusing on making things simpler for business, including working with other government agencies to lessen the regulatory burden. This can help save businesses time, effort and money.

WorkCover can also recognise the difference in resources and systems between most small businesses and larger/ more complex businesses, and adjust its expectations and approach accordingly. Being in touch with the reality of running a small business is important to improving our relationship with the sector.

By taking action, WorkCover can make it easier for small businesses to create safe workplaces by helping them:

  • know what their work health and safety issues are and where to find the information they need to address these issues
  • access tailored WorkCover information through relevant business and industry associations
  • get support and advice that is simple and clear
  • use WorkCover as a resource and know that they can approach WorkCover to help find a solution.

Our focus areas

This strategy identifies six focus areas that are critical to transitioning us from where we are now, to where we want to be. The diagram below illustrates these focus areas, which form the heart of the strategy. The pages following expand on these areas and outline the key actions that will occur in each.

Diagram of  focus areas

1. Better understand the small business sector

Improving WorkCover's understanding of the small business sector will contribute to the delivery of more, practical targeted and meaningful products and services.


WorkCover will conduct further research into small business segmentation and undertake further consultation through workshops, advisory visits, focus groups and surveys. This may include determining injury, illness and return to work trends across different small business segments to identify high risk areas, and investigation of the different information needs of businesses during different stages of business development and growth. Analysis of stakeholder feedback, particularly around service delivery experience, to better identify and respond to the needs of diverse small business segments across different industries and regions – for example, new businesses, expanding businesses, sole traders, micro businesses, regional businesses, business with culturally and linguistically diverse workers and the like.

Small Business Reference Group

To support its work in this area, WorkCover will establish a Small Business Reference Group (SBRG) that will include representatives from business and industry associations and the NSW Small Business Commissioner. The group will support WorkCover's communication with the sector, and provide practical feedback and guidance on WorkCover's progress towards 'making it easier for small businesses'.

2. Articulate and embed a risk based approach

Small businesses want to be clear about what it means for a business of their size to have a safe and healthy workplace, and to be clear about WorkCover's expectations of their business.

Risk based safety advice

Recognising this WorkCover will collaborate with business and industry associations and other government agencies, to develop approaches to providing practical and tailored safety advice for small business that is risk based. That is, advice that provides a clear understanding of what is expected in regard to providing healthy and safe workplaces, and effective injury management and return to work, relative to the scale and risk of a particular business.

Risk based solutions support and incentives

For those small businesses that operate in high risk areas and regions, WorkCover will provide incentives and support for small business to adopt appropriate solutions to high risk practices, through further development of the work health and safety rebate and assistance program.

Risk based approach

Diagram of risk based approach

  • WorkCover has a realistic expectation of small business, understanding that business size and complexity impact on capacity to prepare formal and documented safety systems.
  • WorkCover will take an approach that is responsive to the level of health and safety risk.

3. Transform culture to increase focus on small business needs

Recognising the particular challenges faced by small businesses, WorkCover will provide specialised services that are responsive to their needs. This approach will be underpinned by a substantial program of cultural transformation, focused on customer experience, which will fundamentally and comprehensively change how WorkCover delivers and evaluates its service delivery.

Small business focus

In increasing the focus on small business needs, WorkCover will undertake a program of cultural change to increase organisational focus on, and sensitivity to, the needs, expectations and service experience of customers.

Community Relationships Officers

WorkCover will provide support to regional businesses through the introduction of Community Relationship Officers who can gain a better understanding of local issues and make use of community-based networks.


WorkCover will also actively promote mentoring, coaching and tailored support to assist small business put in place safe systems of work and effective injury management and return to work programs.

4. Simplify

Small businesses have limited time and resources – they need easier access to information and easier ways to provide information to WorkCover. They need government services and advice to be simple, practical and streamlined.

Customer Service Centre

Recognising this, WorkCover will establish a small business service in the WorkCover Customer Service Centre that will provide centralised and simplified services, based on small business segmentation, industry risk, and customer feedback.

Products and services

WorkCover will design and test its small businesses products and services in collaboration with other government agencies, local community networks, small business representatives, and the SBRG with emphasis on simplicity, efficiency and effectiveness.

Red tape reduction

WorkCover will continue to consult with other government agencies and leverage existing information networks to reduce red tape and reduce the cost of compliance and time burdens imposed on small businesses, including the need to report the same information to multiple government agencies. This transition towards greater simplicity in its products, services, advice and regulatory requirements will be underpinned by WorkCover's cultural transformation to increase focus on the needs of small businesses.

5. Relevant and tailored communication


WorkCover will refine its communication with small businesses based on stakeholder feedback. The approach includes:

  • working with small business and industry representatives to deliver customer-focused and user-friendly products, services and programs
  • working with business and industry associations to develop simple tailored messages and services, and to help small businesses understand how WorkCover can assist
  • separating information provided around work health and safety from that around workers compensation (including injury management and return to work)
  • delivering communication material to small business through the most appropriate channels, including print and digital.

Small Business Officer

To integrate stakeholder feedback, WorkCover will appoint a WorkCover Small Business Officer to work closely with its Small Business Reference Group, Community Relationship Officers, Small Business Connect, as well as business and industry associations, to develop simple, targeted and tailored messages and services.

Web based information

Using our improved understanding of the sector, WorkCover will restructure its web-based small business information, based upon the segmentation and lifecycle of a business. Content will be written in plain English and aimed at the needs of small businesses as they grow and develop.

WorkCover's overall approach to communication with the sector is illustrated by the diagram below. WorkCover will respond to, and communicate with, small businesses directly, as required. However, WorkCover will also endeavour to communicate in a tailored and relevant way with small businesses via business and industry associations. WorkCover will develop 'wholesale' messages that can then be tailored and "retailed" by the associations to ensure high relevance to the end small business user.

Diagram showing structure of web based information

6. Reflect, apply lessons learned, and communicate outcomes

Meaningful change

As a result of implementing this strategy and continuing to work with small businesses and their representative bodies, WorkCover will be able to provide examples of real and meaningful outcomes and change.

Communicate outcomes

WorkCover will develop ways to capture these outcomes, and will work closely with business and industry associations and other NSW government agencies to demonstrate the changes and improvements so that others can learn from these positive examples.

Continuous improvement

WorkCover will proactively reflect on these outcomes and engage with the SBRG to implement changes in the strategy, as a result of lessons learned.

Catalogue No.WC01018 WorkCover NSW 0715

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