Blogs & News
COVID-19: Workers’ Compensation Amendments Impact Proof “Burden”
Kathryn Dent, Director
As the States and Territories in Australia ease restrictions imposed by COVID-19, many businesses are grappling with how to unwind the measures they’ve enacted to accommodate the restrictions in a way which does not comprise their duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their workers so far as is reasonably practicable.
The consequences of a work health and safety breach are heightened and more imminent at this time and so too, therefore is the prospect of a workers’ compensation claim in relation to contracting COVID-19. Whilst most employers may seek solace in the insidious nature of the virus making it difficult in some cases to trace the source of infection there are now a group of employers for whom workers’ compensation liability will automatically apply.
Last week NSW Parliament passed the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures—Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 which amends the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) to allow for a presumption that when a full time, part time, contract or casual worker engaged in “prescribed employment” contracts COVID-19 the worker contracted the disease in the course of their employment, unless the contrary is established, thus entitling them to workers’ compensation benefits.
“Prescribed employment” is defined as employment in any of the following:
- the retail industry (apart from online-only businesses);
- the healthcare sector, including ambulance officers and public health employees; disability and aged care facilities;
- educational institutions, including pre-schools, schools and tertiary institutions (apart from online-only services);
- police and emergency services, including fire brigades and rural fire services;
- refuges, halfway houses and homeless shelters;
- passenger transport services;
- courts and tribunals;
- correctional and detention centres;
- restaurants, clubs and hotels;
- the construction industry;
- places of public entertainment or instruction, including cinemas, museums, galleries, cultural institutions and casinos;
- the cleaning industry;
- and any other type of employment prescribed by regulations.
Casual workers will only be entitled to this form of workers’ compensation if they performed work in prescribed employment on one or more of the 21 days preceding the date of the injury.