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Security guards exposed to COVID-19: what rights do you have under the Comcare scheme?

Written by:
Katrina Stouppos
Practice Leader | Associate - Federal Compensation

Many industries have been negatively impacted due to COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus), while others including security, telecommunications, healthcare, and other government organisations are expanding fast with large numbers of new employees to meet increased demand.

Security guards are increasingly contracted to provide security to quarantine hotels, hospitals, supermarkets and other businesses as a result of the uncertainty and turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and are potentially being exposed to the virus every day.

Many of these workers, such as employees of Wilsons Security, Prosegur (Chubb) and Linfox Armaguard, will come under the Comcare scheme (the workers compensation scheme for employees of the Commonwealth, ACT government or licensed corporations) if they are injured or contract the virus while on the job.

So what rights to workers compensation do security guards have under the Comcare scheme, and how can you make a compensation claim if you contract COVID-19 after being exposed at work?

Increased responsibility for employers to ensure safe workplaces

While employers are experiencing increased pressures and unique challenges owing to the pandemic, under Work Health and Safety laws they still have a duty of care for the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety.

Safe Work Australia issued COVID-19 information for workplaces which outlines the obligations for employers and employees, while Comcare has provided specific guidance for employers and employees who come under the Comcare scheme.

In general, employers are required to:

  • ensure all new staff members receive the appropriate level of training required for their position;
  • have set processes and safety measures in place to protect staff and others at the workplace; and
  • ensure employees are following these standard safety procedures as well as the new measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Your obligations as an employee:

As an employee, it is your responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and avoid doing anything that can impact the health or safety of others in your place of work. This is especially important for employees on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic such as security guards. It is important that you:

  • carry out your duties as safely as possible;
  • follow the instructions, training and procedures provided by your employer;
  • use personal protective equipment (PPE) and other hygiene products and procedures in the way you were trained; and
  • report unhealthy or unsafe situations to your manager or workplace health and safety officer.

Who is eligible to make a Comcare claim for exposure to COVID-19 at work?

If you are a security guard (or any other worker) of a Commonwealth Government agency or a company who self-insures (such as Wilsons Security, Prosegur (Chubb) and Linfox Armaguard) and have been employed in a role that puts you at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, you may be eligible to claim workers compensation under the Comcare scheme. Some of the most common circumstances include:

  • If your job requires you to interact with confirmed cases of COVID-19 - e.g. travelers residing at quarantine hotels or COVID-19 patients in hospitals;
  • If you are required to travel to “high risk” areas with known outbreaks - e.g. hotels, supermarkets, hospitals or other businesses in COVID-19 “hot spots”;
  • If you have been exposed to the public through work requirements and could potentially catch the virus.

Requirements to make a Comcare claim for exposure to COVID-19 at work

COVID-19 is a disease which could be compensated under section 5B of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth) if you were exposed to the virus while on the job.

Depending on your circumstances, it may be difficult to prove whether you contracted COVID-19 while you were at work or if it happened during your private life. To make a workers compensation claim under the Comcare scheme, these requirements need to be met:

  • You are ‘a worker’ of a Commonwealth Government agency or corporation who self-insures;
  • The injury has occurred (you have received a positive diagnosis of COVID-19); and
  • Your exposure to COVID-19 occurred as a result of your work requirements and environment.

Other important factors include:

  • Any of your activities unrelated to your employment that could have put you at risk of exposure to COVID-19; and
  • Any other matters affecting your health.

Currently there have been no Comcare claims for COVID-19 decided by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to draw guidance from, however if your work involves direct exposure to COVID-19 and you can prove that your job significantly contributed to a positive diagnosis, you would arguably be entitled to workers compensation.

Comcare scheme offers “no fault” workers compensation

Workers compensation under the Comcare scheme is decided on a “no fault” basis. This means that your claim can be accepted by Comcare without needing to find a fault against your employer, or even where you may be at fault. Instead, it is necessary to show that you have suffered an injury (which includes a disease like COVID-19), and that your exposure was contributed to, to a significant degree, by your employment.

It’s important to note that compensation may not be payable for an injury (or disease like COVID-19) that is a result of serious and willful misconduct (unless that serious and willful misconduct results in death or serious and permanent impairment).

Shine Lawyers – we’re here to help

Shine Lawyers have a dedicated Comcare claims team who have already provided advice to a number of frontline workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 while at work and are seeking to make a compensation claim. If you want to find out more about your legal entitlements or if you are eligible for compensation, contact us today to book an obligation-free consultation.

To find out more about how to access workers compensation under the Comcare scheme, click here.

Written by Katrina Stouppos. Last modified: August 25, 2020.

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