The latest industry insights into compensation law.

Inevitable rise in workers’ compensation claims due to COVID-19

Workers’ compensation insurers around Australia are taking steps to ensure they are prepared for an inevitable rise in workers’ compensation claimsfor employees who contract COVID-19.

Many businesses have already implemented arrangements for staff to work from hometo assist with the government’s new social distancing guidelines.  However, many Queenslanders are still at work and particularly those who perform essential services.

Industries such as the medical profession, supermarkets and pharmacies are also hiring thousands of additional staff to cope with the extraordinary demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Naturally, many Queenslanders are voicing their concerns regarding the possibility of contracting COVID-19 due to infectious exposure occurring on the job.

The NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority (“SIRA”) has released data that confirms 106 work related COVID-19 compensation claims/notifications had been lodged as at 1 April 2020.

WorkCover Queensland recently released a statement assuring the Queensland community they are prepared for the COVID-19 outbreak and the impact the respiratory virus will have on the scheme.

The workers’ compensation legislation in Queensland defines an “injury” to include a disease contracted in the course of employment, whether at or away from the place of employment, if the employment is a significant contributing factor to contracting the disease.

There is no argument that COVID-19 is a disease.  The aspect of this test that will most likely be in dispute is whether a Queensland worker has contracted COVID-19 “during the course of their employment” and whether their employment was a “significant contributing factor” to the development of the disease.

This could be a difficult hurdle to overcome.  It will need to be shown the disease has more likely developed as a result of employment as compared to the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 outside of employment.  This will be assessed on a case by case basis and will require medical confirmation of not only the diagnosis, but also confirming employment is the likely reason for contracting the disease.

This threshold will inevitably be easier to establish for some professions, such as medical professionals coming into contact with confirmed cases or supermarket staff who are regularly exposed to large numbers of the community, as compared to someone working in a small office where there are no confirmed cases.

WorkCover will no doubt rely on information from injured workers, their medical practitioners and their employers when determining claims relating to COVID-19.  It is important for injured workers to avoid any delay in lodging a claim if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and believe the disease has been contracted due to their employment.  It is also important to immediately discuss these issues with your doctor which will assist your medical provider in determining the likely origin of your exposure to COVID-19.

If a claim with WorkCover is accepted, an injured worker is entitled to weekly compensation, payment of medical and rehabilitation expenses, travel and other allowances and return to work support.  Entitlements to lump sum compensation could also be available if permanent impairment has been suffered.

It is expected that most people who contract COVID-19 will make a good recovery.  However, in the event of prolonged periods of incapacity, disability or even death, an injured worker or their dependents should obtain legal advice to ensure their rights are protected.

Senior Associate
Zach has represented many clients throughout Queensland, interstate and overseas and has successfully negotiated many significant and complex cases and has extensive experience in various types of compensation claims.

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State updated!
Your state has been updated to QLD. Practice areas on compensation law have been updated.