Coronaviruses such as COVID-19 and SARS come from a large family of viruses that can cause lung conditions and respiratory illnesses in people. COVID-19 is a novel virus, which has not been seen before, and people who contract the disease can develop severe medical complications.
Much has been reported on the action that is being taken by employers to minimise the spread of the virus, but what happens if you contract COVID-19 in the course of your employment?
Maybe you’re a contract cleaner or an employee at the local hospital, maybe you work at a local supermarket or maybe you’re a hairdresser that has been instructed to continue styling hair in close proximity to an infected person. If you contract the virus, you may find yourself very ill, without an income and with costly medical bills to pay.
If you contract the virus at work, you should know what to do in the event that you wish to make a workers compensation claim.
Both New South Wales and Victoria have similar legislative provisions that allow a workers compensation claim to be made by an employee if they contract the COVID-19 disease in the course of their employment.
In NSW, your right and entitlement to claim workers compensation benefits arises if you have sustained an injury at work. The legislation defines an injury as a personal injury arising out of the course of employment and it includes a disease injury that is contracted by a worker in the course of their employment, where their employment was the main contributing factor to contracting COVID-19.
In Victoria, your right to claim workers compensation benefits arises in a similar way but Victorians must show that their employment was a significant contributing factor to them contracting COVID-19.
Proving that you contracted the disease in the course of your employment may be difficult and an insurer may want to decline your claim. This is because sometimes it is difficult to prove that you were exposed at work or in the course of your employment, especially if you do not work in frontline health occupations such as nursing or allied health care.
If there is even a possibility that you were exposed to the COVID-19 virus at work, or in the course of your usual employment activities, you should document it straight away. If you believe you have been exposed to someone who has the virus, you should make notes about the incident, report it to your supervisor and write down as much information as you can about what happened, where and when. You should also lodge a claim for workers compensation by completing a Workers Injury Claim Form and submitting it to your employer with your WorkCover Certificate of Capacity (medical certificate).
After the Swine flu outbreak, around a decade ago, I acted for a client who had contracted H1N1 Swine flu in a claim for workers compensation benefits. A copy of the decision can be found here. Thankfully I was able to obtain good evidence from the local hospital proving that, on the balance of probabilities, the virus was contracted in the course of employment.
Harris Lieberman Solicitors have expert solicitors with years of experience in disease injury cases on both sides of the border. If you have contracted COVID-19 at work, you should call us for an obligation free initial telephone consultation.