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Greens extend workers compensation to essential workers for COVID-19

Media Release
Adam Bandt 13 May 2020

The NSW Greens have successfully amended emergency government legislation in NSW parliament to extend workers compensation benefits to cover COVID-19. 

The amendment to the legislation passed the Upper House today, and grants cover for full time, part time, contract and casual workers under workers compensation in the following circumstances. 

  • workers who are off work having been diagnosed with covid-19
  • casual workers who are tested for, and diagnosed with, covid-19 within 21 days of last working, and
  • workers who die from covid-19.

Payments will be made at the standard workers compensation rates and continue until 7 days after a worker has been cleared of the disease or they have returned to work. 

If a worker dies from COVID-19, death benefits will be payable to that worker’s dependents. 

This benefit is substantial under NSW workers compensation laws; it is $816,850.

The legal changes will cover all workers in industries where there is significant face-to-face or public interactions including education, health, hospitality, entertainment, construction and retail industries. 

As the policy taps into well-funded and existing resources, it will not require any further taxpayer funding. Provisions are included to ensure successful claims do not adversely impact employers premiums.

NSW Greens MP and spokesperson for workers’ rights David Shoebridge said: 

“This is a win for workers who are looking to politicians to show real leadership, to keep them safe and protect them if they fall ill. 

“This is a tribute to the unions and other political parties who backed these Greens’ amendments in. It was a case of politics working.

“COVID-19 poses a real threat to essential workers especially as restrictions ease, that's why these protections are essential. 

“We hope there will not be a second wave of infections but we also need to be prepared and put in these protective measures in place. 

“These changes provide far more protection for essential workers than is currently available should they contract COVID-19.

“It’s bad enough being ill with this virus, no worker needs to add a legal fight to a health crisis. These amends cut through all the legal costs and delay and get benefits flowing when they are needed. 

“So many workers in industries like retail, hospitality and the entertainment sector, are employed as casuals and without these protections if they fall sick they will get nothing.

“No worker should suffer a financial cost because they got sick at work or have to isolate after attending work, '' said Mr Shoebridge. 

Federal Greens Leader and Federal spokesperson for Industrial Relations Adam Bandt said: 

“This is a huge win for the safety of workers in New South Wales. 

“By changing the law to automatically include coronavirus-affected workers in existing workers’ compensation schemes, we can ensure an income for unwell workers without imposing additional costs on their employers. 

“Now is the time for the Commonwealth and other states and territories to follow the lead of the NSW Greens and implement this straightforward but highly effective legislation to protect workers and support business.” 

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