10 November 2021 posted by Recovery Partners

 

UPDATE 
Shortly after publishing this blog on 10 November 2021, NSW Government is now trying very hard to save businesses from half a billion dollar COVID bill.

NSW Government bill to repeal the Covid-19 presumption of workers’ compensation claims has been referred to a parliamentary committee for review.

The committee is not due to report until February 2022.

 Read the full press release here.

Recovery Partners were proud to host Life After Lockdown where David Allan from Willis Towers Watson spoke about the impacts of COVID-19 on workers compensation and the possibility of a COVID-19 levy.

David Allan – Workplace Risk Solutions Director at Willis Towers Watson

David has close to 15 years’ experience in the workplace risk industry. He has supported many of the world’s largest organisations with their workers compensation and work, health and safety programs by implementing strategies to protect their people and their organisations.

Impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace risk space

David explains several impacts of the pandemic that he has noticed in the workplace risk space.

“From a safety perspective, within most organisations we’ve seen WHS professionals really driving the response for organisations with regards to COVID-19. A lot of them have had to become infectious disease specialists. WHS teams have really led the way.”

David also highlights another change.

“Also in the safety space, I’m not sure if it’s an impact but it’s come in the time of COVID-19, we’ve seen industrial manslaughter provisions introduced and revised in some jurisdictions, most notable probably Victoria and also the ACT.”

David agrees wholeheartedly with Chris Doyle about the growing epidemic of mental health and mentions the emergence and introduction of guidance documents across the world with regard to managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace.

Impacts to workers compensation

“NSW and VIC have been impacted significantly… The most recent report from WorkSafe from 2019/20 referenced a 3 billion dollar deficit to the Victorian Workers Compensation Scheme and we’re hearing that’s going to increase to around 4.5 billion dollars when the next annual report comes out. And NSW are running at around a 2 billion deficit. COIVD-19 has played a big part in these financial positions,” explains David.

The term ‘at work’ has also impacted claims.

“The other big impact to workers comp if I had to call out something is the reimagining and expansion of the definition of ‘at work’ which I think continues to evolve.”

Impacts on employers

Data from SIRA estimates 638 million dollars in costs in the next 12 months.

“For employers, there’s going to be ongoing pressures on pricing… the 600 million dollars that SIRA is forecasting just for NSW, there’s seven other jurisdictions and that’s going to need to be paid by somewhere. There might be an introduction of some sort of COVID-19 levy that’s brought in in certain states. For example, in NSW there’s the dust disease levy that everyone pays every year as part of their premium, there could be a COVID-19 levy or something that’s introduced to different states to cover the costs of these claims.,” says David.

A word on insurance claims and ‘perception’

“From an employee perspective, to put it simply, there’s coverage for COVID-19 claims,” says David.

Every case is assessed on its merit.

“Workers Comp you’ve heard the word ‘perception’ and I think it’s going to get tested very much. If someone perceives they’re going to be at greater risk of getting COVID-19 [from an unvaccinated person] and they submit a claim for that… It could potentially get accepted. Each case will be assessed on its merit, taking all the factual circumstances into account,” says David.

David emphasises that Workers Comp Policies will respond if someone has an exposure to COVID-19 and every case is assessed on its merit.

“I think case law is going to be created as time goes on as well. There’s the landmark decision of the man who was travelling for work and caught COVID and passed away. This time we’re coming out of lockdown and we’re living with COVID-19, I think case law is going to keep getting created with these different random scenarios that come up over time,” explains David.

Risk mitigation

When describing risk mitigations tools, David mentions COVID-19 safe plans, mandates for vaccinations where appropriate and Rapid Antigen Testing. David describes Rapid Antigen Testing as a big risk mitigation strategy.

You may be interested in our COVID-19 Return to the Office Risk Assessment Template.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/