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COVID-19 should be declared a workplace injury for frontline workers

The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the way our workforces operate. Whilst many people have had the benefit of adapting to a flexible working arrangement, others are at a significantly higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their industries. These include:

  • Hospitals and Healthcare Practices
  • Aged Care Facilities and Nursing Homes
  • Schools and Childcare
  • Meatworks and Abattoirs
  • Workers providing security at hotels and public housing residential towers where quarantining is occurring
  • Workers involved in COVID-19 testing

Shine Lawyers is calling on Ms Jill Hennessy, the Minister for Workplace Safety, to use her powers to proclaim COVID-19 a work-related disease.

By designating COVID-19 a work-related disease, workers in higher-risk jobs would have easier access to their workers compensation benefits if they were to fall ill as a result of their employment.

The Issue

According to section 50 of the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013, compensation is provided for a worker (and potentially their dependants) where a worker contracts a disease which affects their work capacity or if it results in their death. The disease is only designated as being related to their employment where it can be shown that the nature of their work created a greater risk of the worker contracting the disease than if the worker was not in employment of that nature.

Shine Lawyers believes this is not adequate to ensure that workers who contract COVID-19 in the course of their employment will have their right to compensation protected.

Shine Lawyers’ Special Counsel Tom Bradley says, "Unfortunately, section 50 currently gives workers compensation insurers the ability to challenge workers compensation claims lodged by workers. Because COVID-19 has not been deemed a work-related disease, the insurers can argue that the worker's employment did not put them at a greater risk of contracting the disease than if they worked in a different job. This opens up the field for very complex expert epidemiological evidence to be used to defeat the worker's claim."

"The potential delay and extra costs this causes makes lodging a workers compensation claim an unattractive option to most workers who need the certainty of an outcome and immediate financial and medical help.”

If the Minister exercises her power to make the directions we are calling for, it will provide thousands of workers with simple and cost-effective access to the workers compensation scheme.

Potential Coronavirus Workers Compensation Claims

If you contract COVID-19 in the course of your employment, you are entitled to lodge a workers compensation claim for your lost wages, medical costs and expenses. If you suffer a serious permanent impairment as a result of COVID-19, you also may be able to seek damages for your pain and suffering and loss of earning capacity.

If you have contracted COVID-19 and been permanently affected by the virus, contact us today for an obligation-free consultation about your rights.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: September 16, 2020.

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