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COVID related WorkCover claims for psychological injury

According to media reports, the Coronavirus has been responsible for a spike in WorkCover claims, especially among teachers and health workers. In this blog, I explain how workers may be eligible for both physical and psychological injury WorkCover compensation claims.

Media reports

The ABC has reported that WorkCover claims for injuries, particularly psychological injuries, have increased during the COVID-19 period, especially among certain professions such as teachers whose day-to-day roles have changed enormously as a result of the pandemic.

Many people, particularly healthcare professionals, have also lodged WorkCover claims in circumstances where they have contracted COVID-19 during the course of their employment.

The ABC reported that as of 30 July 2020, 33 WorkCover claims based on contracting COVID-19 had been accepted. A further 78 claims had been accepted, not as a result of contracting the virus, but on the basis of psychological injuries incurred as a result of the pandemic. These were across a broad range of industries, with education and training and health care and social assistance being the leaders.

Our own experience at RCT Law reflects these broader trends also.

Many workers, across a number of industries, have reported feeling under-supported by their employer during these challenging times. They have reported that their employer has not responded to the pandemic and its restrictions in a way that ensures the safety of their workers.

While this may not have resulted in people contracting COVID-19, it may have led to an increase of stress and anxiety about being exposed to the virus. These responses, if severe enough to require to time off work and medical treatment, may be treated as a psychological injury under WorkCover.

Making a COVID related claim for psychological injury

Whether a claim for psychological injury that is related to COVID-19 is accepted will depend on whether the psychological injury can be found to have arisen during the course of employment and whether the employer’s actions were reasonable or not.

WorkCover benefits cannot be claimed where it can be demonstrated that an employer has taken reasonable management action in a reasonable manner in response to the virus.

Presumably, if an employer has failed to implement government guidelines or recommendations regarding COVID-19 (including limitations on store numbers, enforcement of social distancing, guidelines for hygiene, wearing face masks etc) and this has caused a psychological injury to a worker, then this would likely be sufficient to give rise to a WorkCover claim.

Ultimately, the WorkCover insurance agent will make a decision about whether an employer’s responses to COVID-19 are considered reasonable in the circumstances and if the insurance agent does not find in the workers favour then this decision can be contested.

Workers should be aware that both the physical and psychological impacts of the pandemic can be covered by WorkCover and we urge anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 related injuries to reach out for sensitive, specialist legal advice regarding your situation. Your first consultation is free and following that we work on a ‘No Win, No Fee OR Expenses’ basis.