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Workers compensation bulletin - Issue 88 (March 2020)

SIRA prepares for impacts of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

A virus (like COVID-19) may be considered under the disease provisions of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (1987 Act). Relevantly for COVID-19, injury is defined in section 4 of the 1987 Act to include disease injury, which means a disease that is contracted in the course of employment, but only if the employment was the main contributing factor to contracting the disease.

For viruses, questions may arise as to the exact time and place of contraction. As a result, it may be difficult to determine that employment was the main contributing factor.

Each claim would need to be considered on its individual merits, having regard to the individual circumstances and evidence in relation to the claim. Consideration may be given to (but not limited to):

  • work related travel to an area with a known viral outbreak
  • work related activities that include engagement or interaction with people who have contracted the virus

SIRA expects that insurers will have business continuity plans and risk mitigation strategies to ensure normal business operations are maintained in the event of an impact on staff or business due to a coronavirus pandemic. As such, we have requested that our insurers provide assurance that they have a pandemic plan prepared detailing the processes and systems in place to respond. The plan should include financial risk assessments or scenario planning in relation to their workers compensation insurance activities.

We are also seeking assurance that the workers compensation insurance services provided by them will be maintained and any impact to policyholders, claimants or other stakeholders resulting from a potential coronavirus pandemic is minimised.

Employer support

Where employees are potentially exposed to the virus as part of their employment, employers should provide guidance and assistance to the employee to make a claim for workers’ compensation.

Employers should also support the health and recovery of their workers through early intervention while the claim process is pending.

Guidance and resources

The World Health Organization has issued advice on practical measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces or to travelling employees: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19.

Workers compensation open data

SIRA has released December 2019 data to the Workers Compensation portal.

The open data portal is a self-service visual analytics tool that is designed to make it easier to view scheme performance data over time and is another way that SIRA is improving transparency and accountability in the Workers Compensation scheme.

The open data portal has been built with the input and support of WIRO, the Workers Compensation Commission, and a range of other stakeholders and commentators.

We continue to make enhancements as a result of stakeholder feedback with further releases forecast in the coming months.

The open data portal is an example of the NSW Government’s Open Data Policy improving community access to information.