Entitlement to workers' compensation during a pandemic (Coronavirus/Covid-19)

      By Michael Pannach

      Most employers are doing what they can to prevent an employee contracting coronavirus.  However risks are difficult for employers to guard against at the best of times, particularly invisible ones.

      WorkCover Queensland is already seeing a rise in claims resulting from workers contracting the virus and this raises an interesting question - will employees be entitled to workers’ compensation in the short-term or beyond?

      What is required to lodge a workers’ compensation claim in Queensland?

      If you have been diagnosed with Covid-19, in order to lodge a claim that is capable of acceptance you would need to provide:

      • Medical confirmation of the diagnosis;
      • Evidence to demonstrate that you were exposed to the virus within your workplace; to be confirmed by your treating doctor or some other way.

      What will WorkCover consider when assessing a claim?

      In deciding whether to accept any claim WorkCover will require:

      • a diagnosis of Covid-19;
      • the claim to be made within six months of diagnosis;
      • confirmation that you are a ‘worker’ (as defined by the applicable legislation);
      • proof that your work was a significant contributing factor to the diagnosis.

      Currently, with limited cases in Australia and rigorous contact-tracing now underway, proving a connection to your employment will be possible in many instances, but not all.

      And with the virus continuing to spread throughout the community this will become increasingly problematic for those unfortunate enough to contract it.

      For workers with limited exposure points (such as front line medical providers, teachers or those working in other high risk or remote areas) demonstrating a connection to your employment will be much easier.

      For others where there is an unknown source of infection or for those with multiple exposure points (both inside and outside of the workplace) this will be difficult and each claim would be considered on its merits.

      These considerations will apply to any permanent injury or death claims stemming from Covid-19.

      Will you be covered if working from home?

      Over recent weeks businesses have scrambled to create remote-work practices to help their employees set up shop in dining rooms, living rooms and bedrooms across the country.

      Given that working from home isn’t an entirely new concept the workers’ compensation legislation already provides cover to remote workers, provided however that any injuries “arise out of, or in the course of, employment” and “if the employment is a significant contributing factor to the injury”.  So while you may now be covered while performing your duties while at home, this unlikely extends to walking Fido over lunch.

      Also relevantly, for those directed to ‘self-isolate’ over the coming months, it seems unlikely that WorkCover will come to the rescue in the absence of a Covid-19 diagnosis.

      For clarification or any assistant please reach out; we are receiving all sorts of unusual enquiries during this time and we wish to support our community wherever we can.

      Thank You

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