Changes to Workers Compensation Act have consequences for NSW ECEC employees

Changes to Workers Compensation Act have consequences for NSW ECEC employees

by Freya Lucas

November 19, 2021

Changes were proposed by the New South Wales Government last week to the Workers Compensation Act 1987, which could impact those working in schools, early learning centres and other prescribed workplaces who catch COVID-19.

 

Under the changes, teachers and other staff in schools and early learning centres who catch COVID-19 will no longer be presumed to have caught it at work. Rules were introduced in 2020 that meant staff in education (and other frontline services including health, aged care, transport, hospitality and retail) who needed to make a workers’ compensation claim because of COVID-19, were automatically presumed to have been infected in their workplace. 

 

Section 19B, introduced in May 2020, reads: “it is presumed (unless the contrary is established) that the disease was contracted by the worker in the course of the employment”. 

 

There have been hundreds of closures in schools and early learning centres because of COVID-19 cases since schools reopened in Term 4,” said Independent Education Union Australia NSW/ACT Acting Secretary Carol Matthews. 

 

As a result, she continued, some staff are ‘understandably nervous’ about the risk to their health and the changes to workers compensation legislation “will do nothing to allay their concerns.” 

 

“If staff only get ten days of sick leave a year, as many do, greater difficulty in accessing workers compensation insurance could cause real financial hardship as well the stress of being ill. Schools and early learning centres are crowded environments where social distancing is almost impossible, and young students cannot yet get vaccinated although they can still transmit the virus,” she added. 

 

“How are staff supposed to know how they caught the virus if their young students are asymptomatic and therefore not tested? It would be very difficult for someone to prove how they caught the virus.” 

 

For more information about the proposed change please see here

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