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We are continuing to learn about the long-term health effects of COVID-19, with mounting evidence suggesting that many people who have contracted the highly-infectious coronavirus have continued to exhibit serious and debilitating health issues long after testing positive.

It is therefore essential to closely monitor and record your symptoms if you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work – even if they appear to be relatively mild at the outset. If you experience significant long-term health impacts you might be eligible for workplace injury compensation.

What might the long term impacts of COVID-19 be?

More time and research is needed before the long-term consequences of COVID-19 are known. However, a recent report in medical journal The Lancet identifies a range of lasting health concerns.

Long-term symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low grade fever
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Memory lapses
  • Changes in mood
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Headaches
  • Needle pains in arms and legs
  • Diarrhoea and bouts of vomiting
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Sore throat and difficulties to swallow
  • New onset of diabetes and hypertension
  • Skin rash
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains, and/or
  • Palpitations.

COVID-19 at work and compensation

If you contract COVID in the workplace, you may be eligible for compensation. Workplace injury compensation initially covers things like lost wages and medical and rehabilitation expenses. But if you suffer ongoing COVID-related symptoms, you may also be able to claim lump sum compensation and damages for pain and suffering and/or loss of earnings. To be eligible, your work must be a ‘substantial’ or ‘significant’ contributing factor in contracting of the virus.

This would apply if your job required you to interact with people who have COVID-19, such as healthcare workers looking after people in hospital or aged care, for instance. Similarly, if you work in a role that requires you to attend areas where there are known infections, you may also be entitled to compensation if you contract COVID-19 and need time off work to recover, or suffer from long-term symptoms.

Regardless of your line of work, you will need to obtain a medical report confirming your COVID-19 status and the fact that you are likely to have contracted it at work. This can be obtained from a doctor or health department official.

Have you completed an incident report?

Like all workplace injuries or illnesses, employees who believe they have contracted COVID-19 at work must also notify their employer in writing. Most workplaces will have something called an incident or injury report to fill out and submit to a manager or human resources personnel. If your workplace does not have an official process you should still document details of your infection in writing to your employer.

You should include:

  • the suspected date of infection
  • where you were working
  • what tasks you performed
  • initial symptoms
  • the date you informed your workplace, and
  • how many days you were away from work.

You should also submit a workplace injury claim form that your employer will submit to the workplace safety authority in your state.

Keep a record – register your COVID-19 infection

To assist Australian workers who have tested positive, Maurice Blackburn has created a national COVID-19 register that allows you to quickly and easily record key details of your infection.

“If you believe you have contracted COVID-19 at work, we encourage you to register with us,” said Maurice Blackburn workplace injury Principal Azmeena Hussain. “We’ve got decades of experience with successful workplace injury claims and know how complicated the process can be.”

It is important to note that registering your details with Maurice Blackburn is not the same as making a claim for lump sum compensation and common law damages, however. This would only happen when the long-term impacts of COVID-19 were better understood, and if your symptoms continued to adversely impact your health and ability to work.

Prevention is still key in all Australian workplaces

Prevention should still be the primary goal of all workplaces in relation to COVID-19. It doesn’t matter if you’re an essential worker in a high-risk workplace or if you live in a state where there are only a few COVID-19 cases – your workplace must have a range of processes in place to keep employees safe. This might include temperature testing, providing effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks and gloves, as well as educating staff about social distancing measures.

If you don’t feel safe or you are concerned that your workplace isn’t addressing the risk of COVID-19 infection you have a right to speak up. Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for staff.

COVID-19 infection: Worker checklist

Even in industries where people are cautious, infections can and do happen. So, what should you do if you contract COVID-19 at work?

We’ve put together a short checklist to follow:

  • Inform your employer of your diagnosis.
  • Complete and submit an incident report to your employer.
  • Lodge an official workplace injury claim form with your employer that they will pass on to WorkSafe or the SafeWork authority.
  • Create some notes for your personal records.
  • Register your details on Maurice Blackburn’s COVID-19 register.
  • Monitor your health – in the weeks and months after your diagnosis.
  • If you notice long-term health impacts, contact Maurice Blackburn for legal advice.

Register your details with Maurice Blackburn today

You have a legal right to be safe and protected from harm at work. And yet we know that despite this, hundreds of thousands of Australians have contracted and will continue to contract COVID-19 in the workplace.

As expert workplace injury lawyers, we know how important it is to record a few key details when work-related injury or illnesses occurs. So if you do contract COVID-19, be sure to submit an injury report and claim form to your employer and take a few minutes to register your details with us.

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If you've been seriously injured or become ill as a result of the actions of someone else, our experienced team is here to help. Our specialist lawyers work across Australia and can help you understand your options. 

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