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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

For: Claimants Employers and managers Service providers Advocates Information seekers

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, workers and employers need to be aware of their responsibilities and entitlements.


The World Health Organization has announced that the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is a pandemic. Comcare is closely monitoring the evolving situation and is focussing on the health, safety and wellbeing of workers and employers.

We have prepared guidance to help people working under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act).

Safe Work Australia’s informational hub provides more guidance on COVID-19 work, health and safety.

Guidance and resources

Comcare resources

We have developed some practical resources to help you and your workplace during this time.

Comcare e-guidance module

Managing work health safety risks related to COVID-19 module is available through Comcare's learning management system.

It's easy to access Comcare LMS. You just need to create an account in Comcare LMS. See steps to create an account.

Australian Government response and official resources

The following official resources provide information concerning work health and safety duties and the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic and other relevant services.

The World Health Organization has also issued advice on practical measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces or to travelling employees.

Mental health and wellbeing

The mental health of workers either directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 is an important consideration. Some people may be struggling to deal with feelings of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, and others may be adjusting to self-isolation or working from home.

While self-isolation and working from home is an important measure that many workers and workplaces are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19, these measures can also lead to feelings of loneliness.

Resources and practical tips

Finding ways to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues during periods of self-isolation and working from home is vital.

Employers need to ensure they maintain daily contact with their workers via phone, email or online to stay in touch and monitor their health, safety and wellbeing.

Some resources and practical tips to help you look after mental health during this time:

Helpline services

You can also access support via the following confidential helpline services:

  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800.

Work health and safety

We have prepared guidance to assist workers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs to be referred to as ‘employers’) to meet their obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

Our approach to regulation

Comcare, along with other WHS regulators (excluding Victoria), has agreed to a National Statement of Regulatory Intent, published by Safe Work Australia. This outlines the approach we are taking to regulation as this time.

Notification of incidents

Employers should notify Comcare of all confirmed COVID-19 cases that are work-related and arise from the business or undertaking of the employer (PCBU).

Notify us of an incident

Notification allows us to consider and address risks to health and safety. We assess each notification and consider whether regulatory action is required on a case by case basis, and according to standard procedures.

Notification of incidents which occur in the home

Employers should provide instructions to their workers to notify their supervisor or manager, and/or their WHS Unit, of any work health and safety incident where:

  • it is believed there may be a risk to their personal health and safety arising from their work
  • the presence of a hazard in the workplace environment that exposes all workers to a risk of injury or disease.

This also applies to workers working from home.

It is important for workers to be aware that only work-related incidents are required to be notified.

Review and provide clear instructions to workers

Employers should review official information sources and provide clear instruction about what is expected of all workers, including:

Employers should remind workers they have a legal obligation to:

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the health and safety of others, and
  • comply with any reasonable instruction, policy or procedure given by the employer in order to comply with work health and safety laws.

Managing workplace risks

Identifying and controlling risks to workers and others in the workplace arising from exposure to COVID-19 may involve:

  • closely monitoring official advice, see updates from Australian Government and updates from state and territory governments
  • reviewing your organisation’s policies and measures for infection control, including educating workers on best response
  • advising workers of the Australian and state and territory governments’ current control measures, including physical distancing and self-isolation requirements.

Employers should also:

Safe Work Australia's website has more information on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 and you can download a range of resources from their business resource kit.

Working from home or remotely

Many Australians are now working from home to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and homes have become a new workplace for workers.

Employers’ duties extend to workers who work from home or remotely, and must take steps to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers.

The employer should consult with workers and other relevant persons to determine if working from home or remotely, is a viable option, as it may not be reasonably practical in all circumstances, and determine how long these arrangements should continue as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

The employer and worker should discuss or consider the:

  • individual worker’s role
  • suitability of work activities
  • workflows and expectations
  • workstation set up
  • surrounding environment such as ventilation, lighting and noise
  • home environment, such as partners, children, vulnerable persons and pets
  • communication requirement such as frequency and type
  • mental health and emotional wellbeing of the worker
  • safe working procedures and training requirements.

Our Working from Home checklist (PDF, 546.5 KB) provides employers and workers with minimal guidance and measures on how they can meet their respective work health and safety obligations.

Download the Working from Home checklist

Managing working from home risks

An employer has the same work health and safety obligations to a worker while they are working from home. A worker’s home workplace should meet the same work health and safety requirements.

Our Working from Home checklist (PDF, 546.5 KB) provides employers and workers with minimal guidance and measures on how they can meet their respective work health and safety obligations.

As people are now working from home for longer periods, we have provided some additional work health and safety guidance employers and employees should consider when managing working from home risks, including:

  • determining if the worker has any pre-existing injuries
  • communication frequency and type between the employer and worker, including phone calls, emails, videoconference, and daily or weekly check-ins or meetings
  • management of the work program, workload, and activities, including timeframes, expectations and work schedules, and review of workload
  • workstation set up such as desk, chair, monitors, keyboard mouse and computer.

Workers also have health and safety obligations when working from home including:

  • following procedures about how work is performed
  • keeping work equipment in good working order
  • using equipment provided by the workplace as per the instructions given
  • maintaining a safe work environment such as designated work area, moving furniture to ensure comfortable access, providing adequate lighting and ventilation, repairing any uneven surfaces or removing trip hazards
  • managing their own in-house safety, such as maintaining electrical equipment and installing and maintaining smoke alarms
  • notifying the employer about risks or potential risks and hazards
  • reporting any changes that may affect their health and safety when working from home
  • notifying their supervisor or manager of any incidents which occur in the home.

For practical tips to overcome the challenges of working from home, see our:

Safework Australia also provides guidance on working from home.

Download the Working from Home checklist

Domestic and family violence

Research demonstrates that domestic and family violence increases after emergency and natural disaster situations such as bushfires, earthquakes and hurricanes. Based on these experiences, it is anticipated that incidences of domestic and family violence will also increase during the widespread community outbreak of COVID-19.

As many organisations transition to working from home arrangements, it is vital to consider the impact on workers who may be working from home in isolation for some time.

Working from home may not be the safest workplace for some workers. It is important that workers advise their manager, supervisor and/or WHS Unit of any risks associated with working from home so alternative working arrangements can be made, such as working from the usual workplace or another location.

While employers have a duty to ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety while working from home, it is difficult for an employer to offer alternative work arrangements where the worker has not disclosed the existence of, or potential risk of, domestic and family violence.

While workers may have reasons for not wanting to disclose domestic and family violence, they also need to be aware of their duties to take reasonable care for their own and others’ health and safety.

When communicating with workers, employers can proactively advocate the use of support services such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and local domestic and family violence support organisations.

White Ribbon Australia provides an interactive map which locates support services in each jurisdiction.

Road transport and road freight

Daily travel and interactions with different people and workplaces are unavoidable within the road transport and freight industries and this increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19. It is important that drivers and operators do everything reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of exposure.

Employers must implement control measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. This is the case even if implementing the control measures results in delays to your schedule.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is urging heavy vehicle drivers and operators to take steps to maintain their health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 situation. Visit the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator's website for updates and detailed information on border restrictions, driving two-up, availability of services stations and the use of facilities and simple steps to avoid COVID-19.

For more information, see:

Resources and information

Safe Work Australia provides these resources:

For general employer responsibilities around work health and safety, see the role of PCBUs.

Workers' compensation and rehabilitation

We have prepared guidance to help employers and employees understand entitlements and responsibilities under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1998 (SRC Act) during COVID-19.

Coverage

A virus, like COVID-19, is likely to be considered under the disease provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act). For a disease to be covered it must be contributed to, to a significant degree, by the employee’s employment (section 5B).

For coverage to exist, a determining authority would need to be satisfied that the employment significantly contributed to the employee contracting the virus. For viruses, it can be difficult to accurately determine the exact time and place of contraction. As a result, it may be difficult to determine that employment significantly contributed to the virus.

However, where an employee’s employment puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus the significant contribution test may be easier to meet. For example, if the employment involves:

  • travel to an area with a known viral outbreak
  • activities that include engagement or interaction with people who have contracted the virus
  • activities that contravene Department of Health recommendations.

Each claim needs to be considered on its individual merits, having regard to the individual circumstances and evidence in relation to the claim.

Coverage while working from home

An employee’s home can be their place of work, just like any other work location.

To determine if an employee is covered for workers’ compensation, the same SRC Act tests apply. That is, an injury has to arise ‘out of, or in the course of, the employee’s employment’ (section 5A) for coverage to exist. A disease must be ‘contributed to, to a significant degree, by the employee’s employment’ (section 5B) for coverage to exist.

Employers should provide clear guidelines to employees regarding work hours and break times so that any injury that occurs while at home can be properly assessed for compensation purposes.

Coverage while travelling overseas for work

The significant contribution test applies to both employees working overseas and those working within Australia. Each case will be assessed on its own facts.

Note: For locally engaged overseas employees (employees engaged overseas to perform duties overseas) different legislative considerations will apply. For further information, email general.enquiries@comcare.gov.au or call 1300 366 979.

Medical examinations

Employees with an existing claim are encouraged to contact their claims manager to discuss their individual circumstances, and each case will be assessed on its own facts.

The claims manager will carefully consider whether it is reasonable to request an employee attend a medical examination during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will take into account a range of factors including:

  • the employee’s concerns
  • health issues that increase risk of infection such as chronic medical conditions and compromised immune system
  • whether the location of the examination puts the employee at greater risk of exposure
  • if the examination can be postponed until a future date.

If a medical examiner has cancelled an examination due to exposure risks, an employee’s compensation will continue and the examination will be rescheduled.

Workplace rehabilitation

Employee information

During this challenging time, it is important that you continue to focus on your recovery and, where possible, return to work. Your employer will continue to provide support, although there may be some changes to the way this support is delivered to you.

Rehabilitation assessments and rehabilitation programs

Rehabilitation assessments and activities related to your rehabilitation program can still take place during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have concerns about participating, you should contact your rehabilitation case manager to discuss your circumstances. Your rehabilitation case manager will take into account a range of factors, including:

  • your concerns about participating
  • whether you fall within the category of those most at risk of serious infections
  • whether any rehabilitation appointments or activities place you or others at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • whether any rehabilitation appointments or services need to be delivered in a different way or postponed to a future date
  • how you can still participate in rehabilitation and work towards your goals
  • the potential benefits of providing you with rehabilitation services
  • the impact that a potential suspension of compensation have on your circumstances.

If available and appropriate, assessments and activities under your rehabilitation program may be able to be undertaken using telehealth. See Telehealth for more information.

Your workplace rehabilitation provider

If your employer has engaged a workplace rehabilitation provider they may have new arrangements in place to provide support for your rehabilitation. It is likely that services will need to be delivered differently such as through video-conferencing or telephone. Your rehabilitation case manager will keep you updated on any changes.

Working remotely with an injury or illness

Your employer may have made arrangements for you to work remotely during the pandemic. We have developed a Working From Home checklist (PDF, 546.5 KB) to help ensure your home environment is set up safely. You should also talk to your rehabilitation case manager about any additional modifications you may need to work from home effectively such as bringing home, or being provided with, ergonomic equipment or adjustments to work tasks.

For more information

For additional advice about your rehabilitation during this time, contact your rehabilitation case manager.

Employer information

During this challenging time, it is important that employers continue to support the recovery of their employees and, where possible, return to work.

During this time, workplace rehabilitation will need a particular focus on good communication, the coordination of stakeholders and an individualised approach to be effective.

An individualised approach

If you are arranging a rehabilitation assessment or developing or monitoring a rehabilitation program, it is important to consider the employee’s individual circumstances, including any impacts from COVID-19 restrictions. We encourage you to take a common sense approach and consider:

  • any concerns the employee may have
  • whether the employee falls into one of the at-risk categories. Please refer to the Department of Health for advice about who is most at risk:
    • does the employee have a compromised immune system?
    • are they elderly?
    • are they Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, as they may have higher rates of chronic illness?
    • do they have a chronic medical condition?
    • are they in a group residential setting?
  • whether any rehabilitation appointments or activities place the employee or others at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • whether any rehabilitation appointments or services need to be delivered in a different way or postponed to a future date
  • how the employee can still participate in rehabilitation and work towards their goals
  • the potential benefits of providing rehabilitation services to the employee
  • the impact a potential suspension of compensation (as a result of refusal or failure to attend) will have on the employee’s circumstances.

Maintain contact and coordinating stakeholders

Think about ways to maintain contact with injured employees who are isolated from the workplace, whether this is related to their injury or COVID-19 restrictions.

  • There may be delays in receiving rehabilitation or services may be delivered in new ways - keep employees updated and reassured.
  • Decide who will be responsible for maintaining contact with the injured employee – this may be their supervisor, their rehabilitation case manager or another nominated contact person.
  • Discuss and promote the ability for rehabilitation activities to occur in the home where appropriate, taking note of our Working From Home checklist (PDF, 546.5 KB).

Working with providers

Talk to workplace rehabilitation providers about what arrangements they have in place and what meaningful rehabilitation services they can still provide to your injured employees. It is likely that services will need to be delivered differently such as through video-conferencing or by telephone.

You also need to reconfirm the availability of any legally qualified medical practitioners for rehabilitation assessments during this period.

For more information

For additional advice about providing workplace rehabilitation during this time, contact us on 1300 366 979 or email imas.help@comcare.gov.au.

The Rehabilitation Case Manager handbook (PDF, 658.3 KB) also provides more information about implementing effective rehabilitation.

Telehealth

Telehealth explained

Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely.

Telehealth services can be provided by doctors, nurses, mental health and certain allied health professionals to provide some services.

The Australian Government Department of Health has released its guidance on Medicare support for telehealth services. The telehealth service allows people to access essential health services while they undergo self-isolation or quarantine and reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community.

How to access telehealth

To access telehealth services, you should contact your usual care medical practitioner, such as your GP, to ask if they offer the service. Alternatively, you may seek support from a telehealth doctor.

Telehealth services and medical treatment

Telehealth services can be used to obtain medical treatment under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) for medical and some allied health services to employees who have a claim.

Payment for the use of telehealth services will be made where deemed appropriate. Each case will be assessed on its own facts. In assessing any request, the claims manager will determine whether the use of telehealth services is reasonable and in line with the requirements of the SRC Act.

Employees and service providers who want to use telehealth services to obtain treatment can contact their claims manager to discuss.

Telehealth services and medical examinations

Telehealth services can be used to conduct a medical examination. It is at the claims manager's discretion to determine if a telehealth medical examination is reasonable in the circumstances. Contact your claims manager if you have any questions.

Telehealth services and rehabilitation

Telehealth services can be used to conduct a rehabilitation assessment and for the development and delivery of a rehabilitation program. The rehabilitation case manager will determine whether telehealth is reasonable for a rehabilitation assessment or rehabilitation program. Contact your rehabilitation case manager if you have any questions.

In response to coronavirus (COVID-19), we have introduced temporary item codes to allow allied health providers to deliver services via telehealth.

Employer support

Where employees are potentially exposed to the virus as part of their employment, employers should provide guidance and assistance to the employee to make a claim for workers’ compensation.

Employers should also support the health and recovery of their workers through early intervention while the claim process is pending.

For more information and resources for employers, see Employer information on claims and rehabilitation, email general.enquiries@comcare.gov.au or call us on 1300 366 979.

Calculating incapacity payments

The application of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) to the calculation of normal weekly earnings and incapacity payments during COVID-19 will depend on the individual circumstances of a claim.

We are providing general guidance about applying the SRC Act to normal weekly earnings and incapacity payments through a range of possible scenarios. Decision makers may need to apply multiple options for their specific situation. We also advise decision makers to contact Comcare if they have any questions about the application of the SRC Act.

For more information about adjusting an employee’s normal weekly earnings, see Jurisdictional Policy Advice – Adjusting an employee’s normal weekly earnings under subsection 8(10) (PDF, 138.1 KB).

The Government’s introduction of the JobKeeper payment is likely to impact the application of the SRC Act in the following scenarios. Where JobKeeper payments will affect incapacity calculations, Comcare will update these scenarios accordingly.

JobKeeper payments

On 9 April 2020 the Commonwealth Government passed legislation to enact a wage subsidy plan – JobKeeper payments - to help keep more Australians in jobs and support businesses affected by the significant economic impact caused by the coronavirus. For more information on the JobKeeper payment, refer to the JobKeeper payment page on the Treasury website.

Note: As further information on the JobKeeper payment becomes available, we will update our information accordingly.

An employer is unable to offer suitable employment

Where an employer is no longer able to provide an employee with suitable employment (e.g. as part of a rehabilitation program), the employee can claim incapacity for the time that employment is not able to be provided. Incapacity payments are calculated as normal under sections 19(2) or 19(3) of the SRC Act.

Note: Where an employee is part of a group of employees, in the same or similar roles, whose duties are no longer able to be offered, the employee's normal weekly earnings may also be affected. Refer to the information below.

An employee is stood down and asked to use their own paid leave

Where an employee with a compensation claim has been asked to use their own paid leave (annual or sick/carers) while stood down from employment, they may still be entitled to incapacity payments where they are on a graduated return to work or are totally incapacitated for work.

The decision maker will need to continue to monitor the employee’s capacity for work to aid them in determining the employee’s incapacity payments.

Section 116 of the SRC Act provides that an employee is not entitled to be granted any kind of leave of absence with pay (other than maternity leave with pay) during, or in respect of, any period when the employee is receiving incapacity payments. That is, the employee cannot be paid both incapacity payments as well as paid leave (except maternity leave) from their employer for the same period.

An employee is on a graduated return to work

Where an employee is on a graduated return to work, they can claim incapacity payments for the hours they are unfit to work due to their compensable condition and use their own paid leave for the hours they are fit for work but unable to do so due to the stand down. Any paid leave must be included in incapacity calculations and will form the actual earnings (AE) component.

In these circumstances, and in line with section 116, the employee is claiming incapacity payments and paid leave for different periods.

Example:

An employee’s normal weekly hours are 40 hours per week. They are currently certified fit for, and are working, 25 hours per week on a graduated return to work. The employee can receive incapacity payments for the 15 hours per week they are unable to work due to their compensable condition and use paid leave to cover the 25 hours per week that they are fit to work but unable to work due to the stand down.

An employee is totally incapacitated

An employee who is totally incapacitated for work can choose to use their paid leave or claim incapacity for a week. In line with section 116, the choice of paid leave or incapacity is for the whole period (a week). Therefore, the employee cannot use both for the same period.

Example

Where an employee is still in their first 45 weeks of incapacity - entitled to 100% of their normal weekly earnings – they may choose to continue to receive incapacity payments instead of using their paid leave. When they exceed 45 weeks of incapacity and are only entitled to incapacity at 75% of their normal weekly earnings, they may choose to use their annual leave to continue to receive their full pay.

An employee has exhausted their own paid leave

Where an employee with a compensation claim has exhausted their paid leave entitlements, the decision maker will need to consider what arrangements or agreements are made between employee and employer at that time before determining incapacity payments.

An employee is affected by changes to work hours, overtime or allowances

Where an employer has modified employee hours, overtime or allowances in response to COVID-19, employees’ normal weekly earnings may also be affected.

Subsection 8(10)(a) applies to current employees and provides that normal weekly earnings should be reduced if this figure would be greater than the amount the employee would earn in that week if they were not incapacitated for work.

Where those who are employed in the same or similar role as the employee are affected by such modifications, the decision maker must assess if those changes would have applied to the employee had they not suffered their compensable injury. If the modifications would have applied to the employee, the decision maker can then apply the same modifications to the employee’s normal weekly earnings under section 8(10)(a) of the SRC Act to align with those same or similar roles.

Example

An employer has advised that all administrative staff are required to reduce their hours to 50% of their normal 37.5 hours per week. An employee with a compensation claim works in a role where they provide administrative support in their team.

The decision maker compares the employee’s role to other administration support staff and identifies that, had they not suffered their injury, they would have been required to reduce their hours by 50% as well. While the employee’s normal weekly hours cannot change under the legislation, the decision maker can apply subsection 8(10)(a) to reduce the employee’s normal weekly earnings to reflect this 50% reduction.

Employer has stood employees down on leave without pay

Where an employer has stood employees down on leave without pay, in response to COVID-19, employee incapacity payments will likely be affected.

Where those who are employed in the same or similar role as the employee are required to take leave without pay, the decision maker must assess if the employee would have been required to take leave without pay had they not suffered their compensable injury. If so, the decision maker can reduce the employee’s normal weekly earnings under section 8(10)(a) of the SRC Act to align with those who are employed in the same or similar role as the employee.

Employment has ended

Where an employer is no longer able to offer employment, in response to COVID-19, refer to Jurisdictional Policy Advice – Adjusting an employee’s normal weekly earnings under subsection 8(10) (PDF, 138.1 KB).

An employee accesses their superannuation early due to COVID-19

If an employee has been financially affected by COVID-19 they may be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

For employees claiming incapacity payments, the early release of superannuation is unlikely to affect their payments under the SRC Act. For superannuation to be taken into account, the employee must be retired from employment and in receipt of superannuation as a result of that retirement. The early release of superannuation due to COVID-19 is unlikely to meet this criteria.

Superannuation accessed in other circumstances may impact incapacity payments. It is recommended that an employee contact their claims manager if they are accessing their superannuation in any circumstance to discuss how it may impact their incapacity payments.

Claims and Coronavirus (COVID-19) frequently asked questions

We have prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about claims and COVID-19.

Am I covered for workers’ compensation if I contract COVID-19?

A virus, like COVID-19, would be considered under the disease provisions of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act). For a disease to be covered it must be contributed to, to a significant degree, by the employee’s employment (section 5B).

For coverage to exist, a determining authority (the claim decision maker) would need to be satisfied that your employment significantly contributed to you contracting the virus. For viruses, it can be difficult to accurately determine the exact time and place of contraction. It can therefore be difficult to determine that employment was a significant contributing factor.

However, where your employment puts you at greater risk of contracting the virus the significant contribution test may be easier to meet. For example, if your employment involves:

  • travel to an area with a known viral outbreak
  • activities that include engagement or interaction with people who have contracted the virus
  • activities that contravene Department of Health recommendations.

Each claim would need to be considered on its individual merits, having regard to the individual circumstances and evidence in relation to the claim.

How does COVID-19 affect my current claim?

If you have any concerns about how COVID-19 might affect your existing claim you should speak to your claims manager.

How does COVID-19 affect my rehabilitation and return to work?

If an employer or the community sets out restrictions due to COVID-19 and these restrictions impact your ability to meet obligations outlined in your rehabilitation program, you should raise your concerns with your rehabilitation case manager. Where relevant, adjustments should be made to an existing program to accommodate a change in circumstances.

For more information, see Rehabilitation – information for employees.

Will I be entitled to compensation payments if I contract COVID-19 while attending medical treatment as part of my claim?

You are unlikely to be entitled to compensation if you contract COVID-19 while attending medical treatment as part of your claim. The SRC Act provides coverage for an injury suffered ‘as a result of’ medical treatment that was obtained in relation to an existing compensable injury. The contraction of a virus is not ‘as a result of’ medical treatment, but rather a result of potential exposure to the virus in the community or while accessing a medical facility.

Am I covered for workers’ compensation if I am are injured while working from home?

When you have approval to work from home (including if you are an overseas employee, your home can become your ‘place of work’ for the purposes of the SRC Act.

Any injury sustained in the home is only covered under the SRC Act if it is connected to your employment. This connection is determined by applying the same legislative tests that would apply to any other place of work (e.g. an office). That is, an injury has to arise ‘out of, or in the course of, the employee’s employment’ (section 5A) for coverage to exist. A disease must be ‘contributed to, to a significant degree, by your employment’ (section 5B) for coverage to exist.

I have been asked to attend an independent medical examination (or rehabilitation assessment) and the medical examiner (or assessor) has cancelled the examination due to exposure risks. What happens next?

If a medical examiner (or assessor) has cancelled an examination, your compensation cannot be suspended for unreasonably failing to attend the examination. Where relevant, your claims manager or rehabilitation case manager will consider postponing a new examination until a later date.

Where your compensation has already been suspended (due to refusal or failure to undergo an examination), and the required examination has now been cancelled due to exposure to risks, you should discuss your options with your claims manager and/or rehabilitation case manager.

Is it a reasonable excuse if I fail to attend a medical examination (or rehabilitation assessment) because of a general fear of contracting COVID-19?

You should raise any concerns you have about attending an examination with your claims manager for medical examinations or rehabilitation case manager for rehabilitation assessments prior to the scheduled examination. This allows time to reschedule the examination where possible.

When assessing whether you have unreasonably failed to attend an examination, your claims manager and/or rehabilitation case manager will consider a range of factors including:

  • your concerns about attending
  • whether you fall within the category of those most at risk of serious infections, for example:
    • do you have a compromised immune system?
    • are you elderly?
    • are you Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (as you may have a higher rate of chronic illness)?
    • do you have a chronic medical condition?
    • do you live in a group residential setting?
  • whether the location of the examination puts you at greater risk of exposure
  • if the examination can realistically be postponed until a future date
  • the impact a potential suspension of compensation (as a result of refusal or failure to attend) will have on your circumstances.

I am on a rehabilitation program because of my work injury. Would I be entitled to compensation payments if I am no longer able to attend my workplace because my employer has asked all employees not to attend work?

If you have a compensable injury and are on a rehabilitation program, you are able to claim compensation payments for the period you are unfit for work as a result of your compensable condition. We encourage you to discuss your individual circumstances with your claims manager and employer.

For the hours or days you are fit for work, you will be subject to the same workplace arrangements that apply to other employees in your organisation.

Service providers and COVID-19

Comcare is here to support service providers to deliver effective and efficient services during this difficult time.

Please visit this page for updates. We will be providing information and advice on changes that may affect your business during the pandemic.

How we are assisting service providers

Comcare is providing assistance to service providers by:

  • supporting alternative ways of delivering services, including the use of telehealth, videoconferencing and telephone consultations, where appropriate
  • paying for personal protective equipment used to provide medical treatment to an employee, where reasonable and appropriate
  • making payments as soon as practicable
  • continuing to update you through this webpage and responding to your queries.

Information for providers

Being safe and managing risk during the pandemic

Providers should tailor services to the needs of the client or stakeholder and consider how their services can have the most impact while reducing the risk of exposure.

All providers are expected to have procedures in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These procedures should consider how you will safely operate your business and deliver services to injured employees, employers and others.

Telehealth services

Comcare supports the use of alternative ways of delivering quality services to employees and employers.

Use of telehealth services

Telehealth can be used where appropriate and where there is agreement from the employee and/or employer.

Telehealth services refer to specific healthcare services delivered through telephone or video. Telehealth services can be used to deliver some medical and rehabilitation services, including by:

  • medical practitioners
  • nurses
  • mental health professionals
  • allied health professionals
  • workplace rehabilitation providers.

Service providers should consider the effectiveness of alternative service delivery methods on a case-by-case basis. We also encourage providers to visit their professional associations for guidance on how to effectively use telehealth services.

Telehealth allied health service rates and codes

In response to coronavirus (COVID-19), we have introduced temporary item codes to allow allied health providers to deliver services via telehealth.

See the Telehealth Allied Health Rates and Codes guide (PDF, 126.5 KB) for upper limit fees for allied health treatment via telehealth. For other provider services, see rates for allied health treatment.

Advice on personal protective equipment (PPE)

Comcare has issued scheme guidance on what it will pay for the provision of medical treatment. Each case is decided on its own facts.

Where it is determined that the use of PPE is appropriate and necessary to provide medical treatment to an employee, the claims manager will pay for the reasonable cost of the PPE.

Payment rates for providers

Comcare has issued scheme guidance on the appropriate cost of medical treatment.

Comcare has also issued scheme guidance to rehabilitation authorities and workplace rehabilitation providers on the appropriate cost and duration of workplace rehabilitation provider services.

This scheme guidance continues to apply during the pandemic.

Processing of invoices

Invoices sent directly to Comcare for approved medical treatment or other services will be paid as soon as practicable.

Cancellations

The payment of a cancellation fee cannot be made, as the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act) only provides for the payment of services provided.

Providers should consider other options such as telehealth or videoconferencing to provide the service. Failing that, the appointment should be rescheduled.

Payments prior to delivery of services

The SRC Act does not permit payment to be made in advance of a treatment or service being provided.

Comcare service delivery during COVID-19

Our highest priority is the health and wellbeing of our people and our clients.

We’ve introduced physical distancing to do our part to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 by restricting entry into all Comcare offices and face-to-face contact with Comcare staff.

Contacting us

While we are unable to serve you in person during COVID-19, be assured that we are still working and available to assist you through our other channels.

You can still call us Monday to Friday between 8.30 am and 5 pm AEST on 1300 366 979 or (02) 6276 0333, or send an email to general.enquiries@comcare.gov.au. See Contact us for more information.

Comcare events and courses

It is with regret that we have suspended all face-to-face training and courses, and events. This is in response to the unprecedented outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Comcare has taken decisive action to reduce the risk of transmission through these activities.

We are disappointed we can’t deliver our training courses as planned, as we had created a full program of valuable information, which we were excited to deliver to you throughout 2020.

We are working hard to redesign our training content and forums experience so we can deliver these online.

Find out more about Comcare’s new Learning Management System called Comcare LMS.

Page last reviewed: 15 March 2020
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Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 27 May 2020

https://www.comcare.gov.au/safe-healthy-work/prevent-harm/coronavirus