Gallagher acknowledges that COVID-19 workplace risk management has always been an important feature of keeping Australia out of lockdowns and functioning to potential. COVID-19 booster programs in 2022 could become part of the Australian workplace landscape, similar to annual flu shot. On the 28th August, the Federal Government responded to the confusion around the liability for workplace COVID-19 vaccination programs by announcing an indemnity scheme to protect employers who may face costly claims when they facilitate vaccinations in the workplace.
From 6 September 2021, Australians who suffer injury or loss of income due to the administration of a COVID-19 Vaccine or due to an adverse event that is considered to be caused by a COVID-19 vaccine, will be able to register their intent to claim from the Federal Scheme. In parallel, the Federal Government is also developing a portal to formally submit claims and documentation, and those who register their intent to claim will be contacted once this portal has been established and they are able to submit the formal claim. Evidence of an adverse event is not required when registering intent to claim. The Scheme will cover the costs of injuries above $5,000 due to a proven adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will provide guidance on recognised adverse reactions as part of their established surveillance program, and claims will be assessed by independent experts, with compensation paid based on their recommendations. The Scheme will be backdated to 22 February 2021 and will be administered by Services Australia.
In some circumstances an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine may be covered under workers compensation. Each claim will be assessed on its own merits. To be covered, the insurer will need to be satisfied that:
While each claim needs to be assessed on its own facts and evidence, several factors may increase the likelihood that a vaccine injury is found to be covered under workers compensation, including whether an employer:
In NSW for example, the link between the vaccine injury and the worker’s employment is easier to establish where a worker is influenced by their employer’s requirement to get vaccinated or is subject to a NSW Government Public Health Order.
In these circumstances there is an increased likelihood of the vaccine injury being covered under workers compensation. When lodging a claim, employers and workers will be required to provide information on the link between work and the adverse reaction to the vaccine. If a vaccine injury is a “heart attack injury” or “stroke injury” under section 9B of the 1987 Act, the worker is required to also establish that the nature of their employment significantly contributed to the injury. In practice, this may mean that the worker will have to satisfy additional requirements. For example, the worker may need to show that they only opted for a particular vaccine brand due to their employment. Under the federal scheme, for claims between $5,000 and $20,000, claimants need to have been hospitalised for at least one night, will need to nominate they are seeking less than $20,000 and provide applicable evidence of:
Obviously there is no need to establish a link to employment under the federal scheme because it is not workplace exclusive.
There are five things that employers can do today to commence preparing for or to support public health vaccination efforts.
Gallagher Workplace Risk are available to help employers understand how to navigate their responsibilities and opportunities in managing a COVID-19 vaccination program and how to best encourage workers to take part or inform themselves of the importance or participating in the national vaccination efforts. The Gallagher Workplace Risk Team are comprised of specialists in Risk Advisory, Workers Compensation, Injury Management and Workplace Training, and with our associates, we can facilitate support for employers to better understand and manage their risk.
Contact Gallagher Workplace Risk on 1300 789 467 or email@example.com to discuss how we can support your business.