Employers that require, recommend, encourage, subsidise or facilitate COVID-19 vaccination onsite or at another location face potential workers’ compensation claims if workers cannot work because of adverse reaction to the vaccine. Common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, nausea or dizziness.
Workers’ compensation agencies recognise that employees may be entitled to workers’ compensation if they sustain an injury due to the COVID-19 vaccine and the injury occurred out of, or in the course of, employment because the vaccine was encouraged, required or enabled by the employer. Significant reactions such as severe fever or blood clots will be compensable; however milder symptoms will usually not result in claims.
The Federal Government has introduced the COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme to enable workers who lose more than $5,000 as a result of vaccination to lodge claims. This can be done through the scheme’s website. The scheme will be backdated to the start of the national vaccine rollout (22 February 2021) and the cost of compensation payments will be fully funded by the Commonwealth.
People who suffer injury or loss of income due to a moderate to significant adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of where they have received the vaccine (whether it is at their local GP, state or territory-run health service, workplace, or other approved health provider) are eligible. Claimants must be able to prove that costs were due to an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Claims will be assessed by independent experts, and the level of compensation available will be decided on a case-by-case basis based on their recommendations. The Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) will provide guidance on recognised adverse reactions as part of its established surveillance program.
Likely, as a condition of the compensation payment, workers will have to agree to ‘no further claims’, including not taking legal proceedings in respect of the same injury.
The scheme will be administered by Services Australia and will be designed as a ‘simple and quick administrative process’. Those who do not want to use the scheme will still be able to go to court, although they are unlikely to receive any more money, as the no-fault scheme has been designed to pay out a similar amount to a court.
The scheme also responds to concerns from health professionals that they would be exposed to liability if they were to administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people under 60 who, as a result, suffered a blood clot. The scheme offers protection to employers and health professionals (including GPs, nurses and pharmacists) who administer a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use by the TGA for anyone who suffers from serious side effects of coronavirus jabs.