Essential Workers Granted COVID-19 Workers Compensation Benefits
Ordinarily, when an employee wishes to claim covid-19 workers compensation, they are required to prove that the injury has been sustained in connection with their employment.
The New South Wales Parliament recently passed an amendment to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (‘the Act) which eases this requirement for ‘essential workers’.
The amendments affect section 9 of the Act which provides relief to employees who receive an injury in connection with their employment, entitling them to compensation from the worker’s employer.
Section 19B of the Act introduces a presumption for essential workers that the disease COVID-19 was contracted in the course of their employment. This effectively removes a fundamental barrier to compensation which would require workers to trace where they contracted COVID-19, making it easier for those who are unable to work from home and may be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 to claim monetary relief.
Also introduced is the presumption that a worker is incapable of work as a result of contracting COVID-19 from the date of infection and ending on a date 7 days after the date on which a medical practitioner certifies that the worker no longer has the disease, unless otherwise established by regulations. This presumption will stand unless the contrary can be proven and will also assist workers in maintaining larger amounts of compensation.
Which industries will this cover?
Section 9B of the Act prescribes that these legislative changes cover workers in the following industries:
- Disability and aged care
- Police and emergency services
- Refuges, halfway houses and homeless shelters
- Passenger transport services
- Courts and tribunals
- Correctional and detention centres
- Places of public entertainment including cinemas, museums, galleries etc.
- hospitality, entertainment, construction and retail industries.
It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and any other type of employment prescribed by regulations will also be included.
Casual employees will only be covered by this amendment where they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within 21 days of performing casual work in the prescribed industry. Staff who have taken time off work after being diagnosed with COVID-19 will also receive the benefit of the new amendments.