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Can you claim workers comp if you have Coronavirus?

As an employer what is your liability?
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Can you claim workers comp if you have Coronavirus?

Can you claim workers comp if you have Coronavirus?

19 March 2020

Can employees claim workers compensation if they have Coronavirus?

Our Workplace Advice Line recently received this question from a Workplace Assured subscriber.

Q Is it possible for an employee to put in a worker compensation claim if they get Coronavirus (COVID-19)? As an employer what is our liability?

A A worker can put in a worker compensation claim if they feel they became sick, injured or diseased during, or caused by, employment. Coronavirus is likely to be considered under the disease provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act). For a disease to be covered it must be contributed to, to a significant degree, by the employee’s employment (section 5B).

Each Australian state has slightly differing worker compensation schemes and you should refer to the appropriate legislation. As an example, to be eligible for compensation in Western Australia, a worker must contract coronavirus in the course of employment and the employment must also be a significant contributing factor to the contraction of the disease.

As Coronavirus exposure can occur in a public setting, the exact time and place the virus was contracted can be tricky to ascertain and it may be difficult to determine that employment was a significant contributing factor.

Each workers compensation claim would need to be considered individually to assess the circumstances and evidence.

In the meantime, employers can keep their workers safe and minimise risk of contracting Coronavirus by:

  • keeping up to date and implementing the government health guidelines, travel restrictions and advising workers to self-isolate for 14 days if they have travelled to overseas destinations (specified on government health site) or been in close contact with anyone confirmed to have the Coronavirus
  • assessing current and new hazards, engaging workers in identifying and implementing risk controls
  • communicating good hygiene practices for workers such as frequent hand washing to protect against infections
  • sending workers home that are not well
  • reviewing policies and measures for infection control, including educating workers on best practice.

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