Urgent legal reforms are needed to ensure frontline workers who contract covid-19 are covered by workers compensation as new data shows there have already been 111 COVID-19 related compensation claims in NSW and 11 have been rejected. No claims have been identified as approved.
To protect frontline workers most exposed to the disease the Greens have introduced urgent law reform to the NSW Parliament to ensure workers compensation cover for nurses, teachers, retail and other workers who are at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19. The legal changes have been provided to the NSW Government who are urged to adopt them.
With 11 of the 111 workers compensation claims related to COVID-19 already denied, workers who are sick face potentially drawn out legal arguments to prove they caught the disease at work rather than on public transport, during shopping and the like. For many workers proving this, especially if community transmission becomes more prevalent, will be an impossible barrier to accessing workers compensation.
The law change will mean if a worker is in a frontline industry such as health, education, retail or hospitality and contracts the disease, it deems that the disease was caught at work and ensures frontline workers will receive compensation. They can then receive lost wages, medical expenses and death benefits to dependents.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said:
“We have an obligation to protect every one of those workers who are placing their health at risk by continuing to provide for the needs of the community during the pandemic.
“We are already seen claims being denied, with 11 of the 111 claims made to date refused. It is little wonder this is happening because how do you prove you caught the disease at work rather than at the supermarket or on the bus?
“We need this law passed urgently to ensure frontline workers can claim compensation rights without having to prove that they contracted the disease at work.
“Right now hundreds of thousands of teachers, cleaners, emergency workers, medical staff, transport workers, retail workers and others are working to keep us safe and well.
“We owe them to pass this bill to ensure if they get sick, they will be protected.
“This is another reason why we can’t wait until September for the NSW Parliament to sit, these are urgent matters and they need to be urgently fixed,” Mr Shoebridge said.
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prescribed employment covered by the Bill means employment in any of the following—
(a) the retail industry (other than businesses providing only on-line retail),
(b) the health care sector, including ambulance officers and public health employees,
(c) disability and aged care facilities,
(d) educational institutions, including pre-schools, schools and tertiary institutions (other than establishments providing only on-line teaching services), (e) police and emergency services (including fire brigades and rural fire services),
(f) refuges, halfway houses and homeless shelters,
(g) passenger transport services,
(i) courts and tribunals,
(j) prisons and correctional centres,
(k) restaurants, clubs and hotels,
(l) places of public entertainment or instruction (including cinemas, museums, galleries, cultural institutions and casinos),
(m) the cleaning industry,
(n) any other type of employment prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this definition.