NSW government announces plans to amend COVID-19 workers' compensation rules

A presumption had automatically entitled some COVID-19 sufferers to workers' compensation rights

NSW government announces plans to amend COVID-19 workers' compensation rules

The NSW government has announced that it will repeal COVID-19-related amendments which automatically entitle some workers who contract the virus to workers’ compensation.

On Sunday, the government said it would repeal section 19B of the Workers Compensation Act, which includes the COVID-19 presumption. The presumption provides “automatic workers’ compensation rights” to workers who contract COVID-19 and work in industries such as healthcare, education, retail, transport, emergency services, construction, disability and aged care, dining and entertainment.

As per the COVID-19 presumption, “workers who contracted COVID-19 had done so at work.” The government said in a media release that the presumption had been introduced in May 2020, “when very little was known about COVID-19 and its transmission.”

“Now we know more about COVID-19 and its transmission, amendments under Section 19B of the Act must be repealed so the workers’ compensation system is both fair to employees and ensuring businesses aren’t hit with an unexpected spike in their insurance bills,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrotett said. “Now that the economy is steadily reopening, we want businesses investing in new staff and higher wages, not inflated insurance bills.”

Treasurer Matt Kean said that the government is introducing the amendments because it doesn’t want businesses to “foot the bill for more than half a billion dollars in premium increases.”

“Small businesses have been hit hard enough by COVID-19 restrictions over the past two years, so now would be the wrong time for them to be slugged with a massive, unexpected insurance premium increase,” Kean said. “If the NSW government doesn’t repeal this amendment, we risk losing jobs just as our recovery is gaining momentum across our state.”

Minister for Digital and Customer Service Victor Dominello clarified that the repeal would not remove a worker’s right to claim. He also highlighted how NSW has the broadest COVID-19-related automatic workers’ compensation rights in the world.

However, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Sophie Cotsis was “not impressed” with the state’s announcement.

“[The] decision is a stab in the back for the tens of thousands of workers fighting COVID-19,” Cotsis said in a report published by News.com.au. “Mr Perrottet expects a hospital cleaner who fell sick fighting COVID-19 to then have to fight iCare too. This will impact health workers, nurses, cleaners, bus drivers, retail and hospital workers. It’s Mr Perrottet’s fault that iCare lost billions to scandals, waste and mismanagement. He shouldn’t make COVID first responders pay the price for his mistakes.”

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