While businesses are forced to close to protect their workers from COVID-19 (coronavirus), many Commonwealth government employees are required to work as their services are considered “essential”.
This means that workers employed by Government services such as Centrelink and the Department of Human Services may have a higher chance of contracting coronavirus through increased contact with people over the coming months.
I am a Commonwealth employee, what happens if I get coronavirus at work?
In short, that employee can lodge a Comcare claim.
Comcare is the no-fault compensation scheme that covers workers who have sustained injuries (including diseases) as a result of their employment with the Commonwealth government or a prescribed large business. Under Comcare legislation, COVID-19 is likely to be considered a disease.
In order for a person to successfully claim compensation for contracting a disease like COVID-19, the person’s employment must have significantly contributed to the development of the disease.
This means each person’s claim will be different based on the exact nature of their job. For example, if a worker subsequently becomes unwell after they were required to engage in activities that included interacting with people who have coronavirus, it will likely be found that their employment was a significant contributing factor.
Similarly, a worker who is required to travel to an area with a known outbreak will also likely have a successful claim.
By contrast, a worker who has not been exposed to people who have the virus, or lives in an area where the illness is prominent, they may struggle to show how their work significantly contributed to them contracting COVID-19.
It is important to remember that the same test applies to Commonwealth government employees based overseas, for example those working overseas at Australian embassies or consulates.
If a person’s claim is accepted, they will be entitled to weekly payments while they are absent from work, medical expenses and a potential lump sum payment.
I think I have been infected with coronavirus at work, what do I do?
If you have become unwell, and you believe this to be a result of your employment, the first step is always to seek medical attention. Inform your doctor of any potential exposure and ensure this is documented.
You should also inform your workplace. Under Comcare legislation you are required to notify your employer that you have sustained a compensable illness as soon as practical.
Finally, you should seek legal advice. Each case will need to be assessed on its merits, having regard to the individual circumstances and evidence. For this reason it is important to get legal advice early.
What if I am currently in the process of my Comcare claim?
Can I still access medical treatment?
Yes, if you are compliant with the government’s regulations, you will still be able to access medical treatment.
Do I have to attend medical examinations organised by Comcare?
Depending on the stage of your claim, failure to attend a medical appointment can delay proceedings or delay your payments. If you have concerns about an upcoming medical appointment, you may wish to seek legal advice and/or contact Comcare or your claims manager directly.
Do I need to continue to provide Certificates of Capacity?
Yes, unless you have permission in writing from your claims manager.
What happens if I am stood down by my employer?
In the event your employment is terminated or you are stood down, your weekly payments should continue. However, each case will be different and we recommend seeking legal advice immediately. During this period, you should continue to obtain your Certificates of Capacity.
If you have contracted COVID-19 as a result of your employment requirements, call our Comcare team on (03) 9321 9988 to find out how we can help you.
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