Victorian employers have a duty to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of their employees. These include measures that protect workers from potential exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).
However, for workers in industries considered essential like healthcare and early childhood education, working remotely or closing is not an option. These workers are more likely to contract COVID-19 as they come into close contact with people, whom may have contracted the disease, every day as part of their duties.
What should I do if I think I have been infected with COVID-19 at work?
If you begin to feel unwell, you should seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor should be informed of any potential exposure and this should be documented.
Your workplace should also be informed, especially if you believe you have contracted COVID-19 as a result of your employment. Under WorkCover legislation, if you have suffered an injury, like contracting COVID-19, due to your employment, you are required to notify your employer. This should be done as soon as you are diagnosed or within 30 days of becoming aware you have sustained an injury.
Can I claim WorkCover compensation if I contract COVID-19 at work?
If you are a Victorian employee you can lodge a WorkCover claim if you believe you have contracted COVID-19 through your employment. COVID-19 is likely to be considered a'disease'.
Your claim will be assessed on your individual circumstances. To successfully pursue compensation you will need to demonstrate you contracted the virus in the course of your employment and what you do at work significantly contributed in some way to your contraction of the virus.
For example, if a healthcare worker such as a nurse becomes unwell after being required to treat a COVID-19-infected patient, it is likely that their employment will be a significant contributing factor. This would similarly apply to a childcare worker who contracts the virus after caring for a child who is subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19.
In contrast, a worker who has isolated themselves, works in a low risk environment, or is likely to have contracted the virus through community transmission will find it difficult to prove their employment significantly contributed to their contracting COVID-19.
How can I access medical treatment if I can't see my doctor?
WorkSafe has introduced temporary arrangements that will allow medical practitioners to deliver services to injured Victorian workers via telehealth in place of face-to-face consultations until further notice.
How do I get a certificate of capacity if I am required to self-isolate or not able to attend an appointment because of COVID-19?
You can request an appointment with your doctor via telehealth services to obtain a valid Certificate of Capacity. In many cases, your doctor will be able to send this to you electronically.
The first Certificate of Capacity is valid for up to 14 days. Any subsequent certificate is valid for a maximum of 28 days, unless your WorkCover Insurer is satisfied there are special reasons for the Certificate to cover a longer period.
What will my WorkCover Insurer take into account when assessing my claim?
Once your WorkCover Insurer has received your claim form from your employer, they will have 28 days to accept or reject your claim. When deciding whether your employment has been a significant contributing factor to you contracting COVID-19, the insurer will assess each case on its merits and may take into account whether:
- you were directed to enter an area with a known viral outbreak as part of your employment
- there was any other known exposure, for example, if one of your colleagues was exposed to the virus at the same place and time
- your employer directed you to undertake work in breach of the Department of Health recommendations and/or directions
- your employer implemented control measures to prevent the risk of you contracting COVID-19 (i.e. mandatory working from home in isolation, protocols and procedures to prevent third parties entering the workplace, etc.).
What benefits am I entitled to if I contract COVID-19 at work?
If your claim is accepted, you are entitled to weekly wages while you are absent from work or required to self-isolate, medical expenses and a potential lump sum payment.
What if I have questions or concerns about the claims process?
If you have any concerns regarding the claims process, you should seek legal advice early. Each case will be assessed individually, depending on the particular circumstances and evidence provided.
If you have contracted COVID-19 during the course of your employment or would like further information, speak to one of our WorkCover lawyers on (03) 9321 9988.