For our nursing, doctor, allied health and hospital worker friends, this is a very serious question. While workers compensation laws differ across Australia, the likelihood is that workers compensation will cover you if you are infected at work.
What is a work-caused injury?
This is an injury arising out of, or in the course of, your employment. It sounds simple enough, but often isn’t.
What is covered will depend on the type of injury received, and whether it is considered an ‘injury’ or a ‘disease’. An injury is often described as a frank condition, or a sudden condition. For example, a broken bone, or soft tissue injury.
A disease is everything else. Infectious diseases, mental illnesses, aggravation of degenerative conditions. This is not always the case, and each matter has its own individual circumstances. The key point for a disease is that the causal test is harder. You have to show work was the substantial contributing factor, the main contributing factor, or contributed to a significant degree (depending on which State or Territory laws apply).
Can an infectious disease be a work-caused injury?
Historically, proving this has been difficult. A worker must show that work caused the disease. Usually, it is impossible to show when and where you became infected.
Common sense will often show that a person is more likely to be infected in certain circumstances. However, if a worker needs to show that work was the substantial contributing factor, the main contributing factor, or contributed to a significant degree, showing that work increased the likelihood of infection is often not enough. Insurers will often point to the chances of getting infected in the community, and as workers bear the responsibility of proving they were injured at work, it is a hard task.
Will Covid-19 be a work-caused injury?
We think that there may be good chances of showing Covid-19 is work-caused.
This is because each time a person is infected at the moment (3 April 2020), State and Territory health services are investigating the source of the infection. Therefore, they are doing the task of tracking the source and helping prove if it is work caused for workers!
Given the amount of information about the Covid-19 restrictions, we see good opportunities to show if a worker was infected at work. This is especially the case for our nursing, doctor, allied health and hospital worker friends.
Commonwealth and ACT public health workers should have Covid-19 deemed to be work-caused injury
Commonwealth, ACT and NSW workers compensation laws can deem certain infections to automatically be work related.
For Commonwealth and ACT Government workers, they are covered by a law called the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988. This law enables certain diseases to be deemed to be work related. The current diseases are listed in the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Specified Diseases and Employment) Instrument 2017. In this law, infectious diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis are deemed to be work-related in certain circumstances (such as where you work, and what you are exposed to).
For non-government ACT workers, they are covered by a law called the Workers Compensation Act 1951. Under this law, there is the power to deem conditions to be work related. They are listed in the Workers Compensation Regulation 2002. For NSW workers, they are covered by the Workers Compensation Act 1987. Like the ACT law, there is also power to deem certain conditions to be work related. Deemed conditions are listed in the Workers Compensation Regulation 2016.
Commonwealth, ACT and NSW governments have the power to protect health workers’ income and to cover treatment expenses by deeming Covid-19 to be work related in certain situations. This could cover doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and all people working in hospitals or health centres where there is risk of exposure to the infection. We think the laws should be amended as soon as possible.
I am not a health worker, could I still claim for Covid-19 to be a work injury?
This is depend on your exposure. For example, if a colleague exposes you to the virus and you become infected, then you may have good chances of showing it was a work caused injury.
Tip for workers
If you are unfortunate enough to become infected, we recommend ensuring you obtain documentation from health services who investigate your infection. Any information you give them about your movement, keep a copy or make a record yourself.
We consider workers compensation to be a vital source of wages, treatment and support for workers at this critical time. We wish all workers good health at this time, and always!
Further elringtons workers compensation page: