Workers Compensation and COVID-19

09 APR 2020

 

Are you covered under the Workers Compensation Legislation if you contract the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? The answer to that question depends firstly on whether Coronavirus is an injury and secondly, whether it is related to work.

Pursuant to the Workers Compensation Legislation in order for a worker to receive benefits he or she needs to have suffered an injury. Case law has previously found that an infectious disease contracted by an employee due to a virus does constitute an injury and therefore, if contracted in the course of employment, the Coronavirus is likely to satisfy the requirements for an injury under the Legislation.

The more difficult issue, however, will be proving that the injury is connected to employment. The Legislation requires proving that employment was a substantial contributing factor to the injury. There is a distinction here however between whether the Coronavirus is categorised as an injury or a disease. If it is a disease, then the test is a little more difficult requiring that employment is the main contributing factor.

It is not difficult to appreciate that determining the exact nature of the exposure may prove difficult. For health workers who are potentially exposed to Coronavirus patients that test may be easier to satisfy. For others who as part of their employment are unlikely to come into contact with the virus it may be more difficult to prove the necessary connection to work. Now that we are in a more significant lock down situation and therefore contact with the community is significantly reduced, it may be easier to determine the contacts experienced by a person who subsequently tests positive for the Coronavirus, and whether those contacts were work related.

As always, each matter will need to be dealt with on its own facts.

The Coronavirus can of course be deadly and therefore claims for compensation may arise not only for injury but also death.

Employers are under a duty to minimise risks to their employees by ensuring a reasonably safe workplace and question whether that duty may also extend to the home environment if an employee is working from home.

No doubt there are many legal questions which arise in the workers compensation sphere. If you require any assistance in that regard, we invite you to contact us by emailing Joe Bonura on jbonura@marsdens.net.au or by phoning 02 4626 5077. 

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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