COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claims

12 October 2021

Are you aware that:

Workers’ compensation claims for contracting COVID-19 are expected to surge at the end of the NSW lockdown, with the industry regulator predicting a bill of up to $638 million within 12 months.

To be compensable, you must have contracted the virus in the course of your employment and your work activities must be proven to be the main contributing factor to contracting the virus. Due to the nature of viruses, identifying how and when you contracted the virus can be difficult. Each claim will be assessed on its individual merits.

On 14 May 2020, the NSW Parliament passed an amendment to the Workers Compensation Act making it easier for certain types of employment to establish the link between work and contracting COVID-19. A new section in the Act states that workers with COVID-19 who work in certain types of employment will be presumed to have contracted the virus at work or while working.

This applies to the following areas of employment: 

  • the retail industry (excluding purely online businesses)
  • the health care sector, including public health employees
  • police and emergency services
  • firefighters (including rural fire services)
  • ambulance officers 
  • educational institutions, including pre-schools, schools and tertiary institutions (other than establishments providing only online teaching)
  • the cleaning industry
  • the construction industry
  • restaurants, clubs and hotels
  • disability and aged care facilities
  • refuges, halfway houses and shelters
  • passenger transport services
  • courts and tribunals
  • correctional and detention centres
  • places of public entertainment or instruction (including cinemas, museums, galleries, cultural institutions, libraries and casinos)
  • cafes
  • supermarkets
  • funeral homes
  • childcare facilities.

What if an Employee has Symptoms of COVID-19?

  • It is important they stay away from work even if they have only mild symptoms.
  • Encourage them to get tested and follow medical advice asap.
  • Advise them to keep in contact with their manager.
  • Encourage them to get vaccinated.

What should Employers do?

  • Register your business as COVID-19 safe.
  • Ensure you have an up-to-date COVID-19 Plan.
  • Implement a COVID-19 Policy.
  • Display signs informing employees and customers how to use the QR codes and how to safely wear face masks.
  • Display signs informing employees and customers how to maintain hygiene and keep social distancing.
  • Keep a record of employee’s vaccination status – ensuring that you adhere to the principles of informed consent and abide by privacy laws.

Privacy and the collection of vaccination status:

  • An employee’s vaccination status is considered sensitive health information under the Privacy Act and higher privacy protections apply.
  • An employer must obtain informed consent from an employee to request and record their vaccination status.
  • An employer must keep the vaccination status confidential and only disclose it on a “need to know” basis.
  • An employee must be able to access their information without reasonable delay and be able to withdraw their consent at any time.

If you would like more information on this topic, or assistance with your COVID-19 plan and related policies please contact us through the link below.