Employees and Coronavirus – rights to workers compensation

COVID-19: What does it mean for your rights as a worker in Queensland?

The recent escalation of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting heavily on employees working in all kinds of businesses.

To make things easier for our clients, we highlight some really useful question and answers to assist employees in understanding their rights in Queensland should they contract coronavirus in regards to worker’s compensation. These are listed below:

Statutory claims phase:

1. Will I be covered by WorkCover Queensland (WorkCover) for compensation if I’m injured whilst working from home rather than my usual workplace due to COVID-19 restrictions?

Short answer: Yes, WorkCover legislation will compensate for an injury which “arises out of, or in the course of, employment if the employment is a significant contributing factor to the injury”.  

Injury includes “a disease contracted in the course of employment, whether at or away from the place of employment, where employment was a significant contributing factor.  

Employees who have pre-existing medical conditions that are subsequently aggravated by the contraction of COVID-19 will also be entitled to compensation.

Takeaway: The defining factor in assessing your entitlement to workers’ compensation will come down to whether your employment was a significant contributing factor to the injury.

So the place of injury will not disqualify a claim for personal injury which is caused by an injury suffered whilst working from home.

2. What if I lose my income because of my work closing down in response to COVID-19 concerns?

Short Answer: You will not necessarily be entitled to wage compensation through WorkCover in the event your workplace closes down as a result to COVID-19.

WorkCover will only cover your wages if you have an accepted worker’s compensation claim on foot at the time of office closure.

This does not leave employees without options however. There are other leave entitlements and avenues stipulated in industrial awards to mitigate the effect of wage loss due to stand down for a period.

3. My employer has directed me to ‘self-isolate’ as a preventative measure—do I have workers’ compensation entitlements?

Short Answer:  WorkCover will only provide compensation in the event of an injury being sustained in the course of your employment. What this means is that a direction to “self-isolate” will not entitle you to wage compensation through WorkCover in the absence of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Where you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, workers may consider seeking advice from us to determine whether to lodge a WorkCover claim. This would depend on whether your injury has occured in the course of your employment, and your employment is considered a significant contributing factor.

4. I’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 – How do I lodge a WorkCover Claim?

Short Answer: The process for lodging a WorkCover claim remains largely the same in the case of a COVID-19 diagnosis as with other work-related injuries. The following is a brief guide to what to be aware of when lodging a WorkCover claim:

    • Follow the specific criteria outlined in Part 5 of the Act.
    • Application is to be lodged within 6 months after the entitlement to compensation for the injury arises.
    • Demonstrate that you were a “worker” at the time of injury according to the legislative definition: see s11
    • An injury occurred: see Question 1 for more information regarding what constitutes an “injury”. COVID-19 would constitute an injury where required elements are met as discussed in Question 1.
    • Exposure to COVID-19 occurred in the work environment
    • Work exposure was a significant contributing factor to the COVID-19 diagnosis.

We at Corney & Lind can help you put the claim together to boost your chances of an accepted application.

5. How do I establish that my contraction of COVID-19 was a result of “Work Related Exposure”?

Short Answer: Establishing the contraction of COVID-19 in relation to a WorkCover claim requires demonstration of the following:

      1. The exposure occurred in the course of your employment and

2. Your employment was a significant contributing factor to the COVID-19 diagnosis.

WorkCover will consider evidence from you the worker, your employer and your medical practitioner in determining whether the above are established.

What happens next if my worker’s compensation claim is accepted?

1. What is covered?

Short Answer: Once a COVID-19 claim is accepted, it is no different from any other work-related injury claim. You will be entitled to the following forms of support:

    • Weekly Compensation
    • Payment of Medical and rehabilitation expenses
    • Travel and other Allowances
    • Return to Work support

2. What happens if my medical appointments or IME’s are cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions? Will this impact my claim?

Short Answer: Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” in this case. It will be a matter to discuss with your individual WorkCover representative and legal representative where relevant.

Generally, such cancellations will merely delay the claim rather than having any severe adverse impact on the final outcome.  

We are here to help:

In this uncertain time, workplaces are facing some unique challenges and navigating employee entitlements in light of increased business closures and alternative flexible work practices is a complex process. Please contact our office and speak to one of our highly-skilled workers’ compensation lawyers who will provide clarity and a direction forward.

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