Frontline Workers and Coronavirus – Do I have an entitlement to WorkCover in Victoria?
Published on September 16, 2020 by Nadia Grech
There is no doubt that there has been and continues to be concern regarding Victoria’s front line workers and their risk to Coronavirus.
As Victorian Coronavirus numbers appear to be decreasing, we are mindful of the continuous efforts of medical, allied health and other services staff working in the closest proximity to infected patients.
If you are working and have contracted Coronavirus, you may have an entitlement to WorkCover.
Entitlement to the Victorian WorkCover Compensation scheme according to section 39 of the WIRC Act makes us consider the following question:
Has the worker suffered an injury arising out of or in the course of employment?
In the case of the Coronavirus, there may be an area of ‘grey’ given this virus can be present in one’s workplace but also in non-work related places. For example, considering frontline healthcare workers who test positive for Coronavirus, did they contract it directly assisting in the care of another or others infected with Coronavirus or perhaps it was contracted in the community away from work?
If your employment involves travel to and from your place of work as part of your work duties, you may also find yourself in a situation where you are travelling to and from work through an area with a known viral outbreak, such as in a nursing home or at an abattoir.
For the injury to be work-related, there needs to be a clear link between the work and the exposure.
Completing your Victorian WorkCover claim is quite important and should be done according to the law as soon as practicable- that is as soon as your incapacity arising from your injury is known. It should then be given to your employer.
There are always situations where claims are not made as soon as practicable. In these cases, if the decision maker is satisfied that the person making the claim has a special excuse for not making the claim within the relevant applicable time frame, then they may consider late lodgment by extending or waiving the timeframe. We would hope this would be the case when it comes to Coronavirus.
If you have a good understanding of the work you were doing when you contracted Coronavirus, this needs to be detailed as accurately as possible in your claim form in order to satisfy the decision maker that your claim is work related or was connected to your employment as opposed to a case of community transmission.
At the time this article has been written, the Coronavirus has not been declared a virus which would automatically grant acceptance of a Victorian WorkCover claim for a worker who contracted it whilst arising out of or in the course of their employment. It will be interesting to see how the State government deals with this issue (if in fact they do) or whether there are ongoing considerations for WorkSafe Victoria to implement this. We will certainly keep you updated if this should happen over the course of the next few months.
If you suspect you have contracted Coronavirus from your workplace, we recommend seeking some preliminary and early legal advice as soon as possible for guidance and assistance on what options you may have.
We also encourage going to the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria www.dhhs.vic.gov.au website for the most up to date information regarding the Coronavirus as well as the Victorian WorkSafe website www.worksafe.vic.gov.au. There you will find a wealth of information to assist and guide you.
The team at Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers are all greatly appreciative for the work you and your colleagues are doing on the frontline and working in our essential services to keep our Victoria safe and helping our vulnerable members of our community.
Nadia Grech, LIV Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law