COVID and Workers’ Compensation

The PSA wanted to congratulate and thank our Corrective Services members who are working as essential service workers, keeping our justice system safe for inmates and parolees, the community and the workforce. A regular question the PSA gets is whether we will be covered if we put in a workers’ compensation claim if exposed to COVID-19 at work.

Every case is different based on different circumstances and the following advice is of a general nature.

Workers Compensation (Income and Medical Support) The union and the Department have worked on mechanisms to get special leave for all workers affected by COVID-19 under the Premier’s Circular 2020-01. This support, with the Medicare system (which unions also fought for and won), should provide most workers with their immediate health and income needs in the case of an infection. However, there are concerns for PSA members if they do get infected with severe symptoms, that the recovery time for COVID-19 can be longer for some people than just a few weeks as contained in the special leave provisions (20 days). Doctors reporting cases overseas, state that a small number of patients have experienced delayed recovery and some patients experiencing permanent lung dysfunction.

There is no uniform answer for whether workers’ compensation will cover workers in every situation. There is a requirement before liability is accepted under Workers’ Compensation Act 1987, for occupational diseases (COVID-19 is considered a disease) that the illness was acquired in the course of work and work was the main contributing factor. In non-legal speak, this requires your work to be the main cause. Therefore by all staff maintaining a movement logs, by staff notifying of suspected COVID-19 exposures and isolation, incident reporting, this may assist members with contact tracing as required from NSW Health and may have the advantage of assisting to prove workers compensation liability in the circumstance when other leave is exhausted and a member needs the assistance. It is anticipated that incidents such as workplace clusters would be easier to prove, than somebody who does not practice social distancing out of work hours. The major problem in getting accepted liability for COVID-19 and other influenzas is proving that work was the source of infection.

For all workers’ compensation matters, you should consult the union who can support you or refer you to our lawyers if required.

 

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