Workers in the travel and transport industry are being exposed to COVID-19 every day as they handle the disembarking and transferring of travellers.
Tourism and public transport bus drivers, airport ground staff and in-airport staff as well as rideshare operators are all among the impacted workers who are at a high risk of contracting and transmitting coronavirus. Many of these workers have been left in the dark by their employers regarding their safety and confused by inconsistent messages and rules being rolled out across the industry.
Who is eligible to make a compensation claim for exposure to COVID-19 at work?
If you are employed in a role or industry that puts you at a higher risk for potential exposure to coronavirus, you may be eligible to claim compensation. Some of the most common circumstances include:
- If your role requires you to interact with people who have been confirmed to have contracted the virus; e.g. travellers or fellow colleagues (prior to their diagnosis)
- If you are required to travel to ‘high risk’ areas with known outbreaks; e.g. airports, ports or isolation facilities
- If you have been exposed to the public and have potential of catching the virus; e.g. on public transport or rideshare services
What are the requirements to make a claim for exposure to coronavirus at work?
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 claim for compensation under the Workers Compensation scheme, the following requirements need to be met:
- You are in fact ‘a worker’;
- You made the claim within the required timeframes;
- The injury (diagnosis of COVID-19) has occurred;
- Your exposure to COVID-19 occurred in the work environment; and
- The work exposure was a significant contributing factor to the COVID-19 diagnosis.
What can you do to minimise your risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work?
Employers should be taking every precaution to protect their employees and to minimise the potential for exposure to the virus. Along with following Government updates, a number of resources have been made available that employers can refer to, including by the Department of Health and Safe Work Australia.
As a worker, there are also things you can do to minimise your risk of exposure to COVID-19:
- Read and follow updates from your employer and/or the Government in relation to the virus and ensure you understand what new rules and changed processes apply to you;
- Notify your employer if you become aware of colleagues or passengers who have the virus or may be at risk of spreading the virus (this is best in writing so it can be documented);
- Be aware of the symptoms of coronavirus; if you are experiencing any of the symptoms you should not attend work until you have received medical advice determining your condition;
- If they aren’t already, ask your employer to provide you with the hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) required to conduct your role safely; and
- Follow the Government’s directives to stay at home when possible, the advice on handwashing and other hygiene measures and following social distancing rules.
Shine Lawyers - we're here to help
Shine Lawyers have a dedicated worker’s compensation team who have already been contacted by frontline transport and travel workers reporting they have contracted COVID-19 while at work and wanting advice on making a claim for compensation. If you want to understand more about your legal entitlements or if you are eligible for compensation, contact us today to make an obligation-free appointment.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: April 8, 2020.