With the risk of COVID-19 infections ever-present, employees and employers around the world are likely wondering what type of protection exists for their ability to earn a living in case they contract the disease. They may ask: How does the risk of COVID-19 affect the workers’ compensation claim process, and has it become harder or easier to file?
Fortunately, the New South Wales government has anticipated some of the worries and challenges that can come along with pandemic conditions and there have been some legal changes designed to keep the filing process from becoming too arduous.
What are the general practices around workers’ compensation and COVID-19?
SafeWork Australia specifies that the rules applying to contracting COVID-19 are generally the same as other types of claims. This means workers have to be part of the company’s compensation scheme, and need to have contracted the virus in the course of their employment. It should be noted that this general policy has been relaxed in NSW for employees in high-risk occupations, making for an easier application process for infected workers.
The NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority adds that when an employee makes a workers compensation claim on grounds of COVID-19, the company needs to contact SafeWork NSW about this fact. As with any other workplace injury in the state, the employer also needs to report the COVID-19 infection to its workers’ compensation insurer within 48 hours of becoming aware of it.
How has the NSW government addressed compensation and COVID-19?
There are challenges associated with proving a COVID-19 infection occurred in the course of work. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that this fact was the cause of consternation among frontline employees in risky occupations such as health care. This, in turn, led to a new presumption specific to the coronavirus pandemic. The additional rule is designed to prevent workers from needing a lengthy or difficult substantiation process to receive their benefits. Considering that they would already be dealing with the effects of the virus, such a legal fight was deemed to punitive and therefore circumvented.
Workers who serve in the industries listed by SIRA are automatically presumed to have contracted the disease because of their jobs and to be incapable of work for three weeks. Employers that can prove the workers contracted COVID-19 outside of the workplace can bring this proof to negate the claim. While some industry thinkers told the Sydney Morning Herald they feared premiums would rise because of these easier new claims, SIRA has announced its intention to keep this from occurring.
For assistance with a workers’ compensation claim, call the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners on 1800 004 878 or email your enquiry.