IEU Acting Secretary Carol Matthews gave evidence on 2 February before a NSW Parliament Upper House Inquiry into proposed changes to NSW workers compensation legislation.
The NSW Government has proposed removing the presumption for certain workers (including school employees) that if you contract COVID, you caught itat work.
Unions NSW and affiliates are opposing the changes and lobbying to influence the final vote on the bill in the NSW Upper House.
The IEU is particularly concerned because of the large number of COVID cases predicted to occur among school and early learning centre staff within the first few weeks of Term 1 of 2022 (Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, quoted on ABC News, 31 January 2022).
It is also the case teachers who are a close or household contact of a COVID case are expected to attend school as usual, subject to daily negative Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs).
Despite the best efforts of employers, schools and early learning centres are nonetheless environments where distancing is difficult, and staff are in close proximity to their students and colleagues.
Staff who do their best for their students should not be forced to take their own personal/carer’s leave if they catch COVID, but the employer’s workers comp insurer may not accept that they contracted COVID at work.
Many staff who have a substantial balance of leave may choose not to make a workers compensation claim,but for others with a small leave balance or those who experience extended illness, a successful workers compensation claim will be crucial to paying the bills.