*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in New South Wales.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the NSW Parliament passed an amendment to the Worker’s Compensation Act 1987 making it easier for employees to make a claim for workers compensation if they contracted Covid-19.
Generally, for a virus/disease related illness to be compensable, the worker must prove that they contracted the virus in the course of their employment, and their work activities must be proven to be the main contributing factor to contracting virus.
This can be difficult to establish due to the nature of viruses, as a worker would need to identify how and when they contracted the virus.
By passing the Covid-19 amendment, the NSW Parliament inserted Section 19B into the Act which 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 made it easier for certain workers to make a claim for workers compensation as the presumption worked in their favour, providing a significant level of income and medical expenses protection and ultimately making it easier to establish the link with their employment. The amendment applied to key front-line areas of employment including:
- The retail industry
- The health care sector, including public health employees
- Police and emergency services
- Ambulance officers
- Restaurants, clubs and hotels
- Childcare facilities
- Disability and age care facilities
The amendment provided an extra level of reassurance to front-line essential workers who were worried about contracting Covid-19 and the potential impact it would have on their ability to earn an income as well as pay for significant medical expenses.
Unfortunately, this may soon change.
The NSW Government is now proposing to repeal the Covid-19 amendment, taking away the extra level of safety for essential workers.
This means that essential workers will need to prove they contracted COVID-19 at work and were not infected in the community, making it more difficult to make a claim for compensation. Naturally, there has been a significant opposition in the retail and front line health work sectors to the proposed repeal.
In particular, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) says its members are outraged by the NSW government’s intention to repeal amendments to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 regarding COVID-19 claims. It is understood that the upper and lower house is currently receiving thousands of emails from affected workers, requesting they block the proposed appeal (NSWNMA, Government attacks workers battling COVID-19, in favour of small business, 15 November 2021)
Should the NSW Government repeal the amendments, workers would be forced to engage lawyers to fight their case and produce costly scientific evidence to prove the connection between their infection and exposure at work. This has become increasingly difficult as vaccinated people may carry the disease without symptoms and may not get tested. At a time when the economy is beginning to open up, this is a significant step-back for protecting front-line essential workers.
If you have contracted Covid19 in the workplace or wish to discuss a workplace injury and your rights and entitlements generally please do not hesitate to contact us on 13 43 63. Our workers compensation lawyers are Approved Legal Service Providers of the Independent Review Office (IRO) and we can apply to have your legal costs funded by IRO.