Workers’ Compensation and COVID. What’s changed?

Tuesday April 12, 2022

Since the pandemic began, there have been around 3,000 COVID-19 related workers’ compensation claims across Australia.

In Victoria, the total cost of claims to date is $7.2 million, and the future estimated cost of these claims is $25.2 million. There have been three accepted claims of death. New South Wales has paid out $7.8 million for COVID-related workers’ compensation claims.

NSW’s State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) recently estimated that up to $638 million could be paid out over the next 12 months in workers’ compensation for COVID cases. SIRA revealed there had been 1,871 claims for workers compensation since the pandemic began in 2020, through to 15 October 2021.

A worker can put in workers’ compensation claim if they feel they became sick, injured or diseased during, or caused by, employment. COVID-19 is likely to be considered under the disease provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988. For a disease to be covered, it must be contributed to, to a significant degree, by the employee’s employment.

If an employee catches COVID-19 at work, they can make a claim for workers’ compensation, which operates under a no-fault principle. Each Australian State has slightly differing workers’ compensation schemes.

It may be difficult to determine that employment was a significant contributing factor to catching COVID-19. Each workers’ compensation claim is considered individually to assess the circumstances and evidence.

In terms of workers’ compensation, each claim will be assessed on its individual merits and consideration may be given to (but not limited to):

    • Workers who travelled to an area with a known COVID-19 outbreak
    • Workers who carry out activities that include engaging or interacting with people who have contracted COVID-19

Industries most affected by claims for workers’ compensation for COVID are:

    • Supermarkets and grocery stores
    • Takeaway food outlets
    • Police
    • Correctional services
    • Department stores
    • Hospitals
    • Fruit and vegetable wholesalers
    • Building and cleaning services
    • Healthcare providers
    • Schools

To protect yourself from legal action, it’s important to comply with all public health orders. If there is any uncertainty, seek legal advice before making any decision. It’s important to note that if a worker believes they contracted COVID-19 because their employer was at fault, either deliberately or through negligence, they may be able to sue their employer in court for damages.

Employers can keep their workers safe and minimise the risk of contracting COVID-19 by:

    • Keeping up to date and implementing government health guidelines
    • Promoting COVID-19 vaccinations
    • Encouraging social distancing and mask wearing
    • Assessing current and new hazards
    • Communicating good hygiene practices
    • Sending workers home who are not well
    • Reviewing policies and measures for infection control

Would you like help in ensuring your employees are protected as much as possible from COVID-19? The HR Dept can help put health and safety policies in place to look after you, your business and your workforce.

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