Employers could face legal action if workers are infected by COVID-19
Now that many employees are returning to work as the lockdown eases, a health expert has warned that if workers contract COVID-19, they may be able to sue their employers. Professor Andrew Watterson from the University of Stirling, in a white paper published in New Solutions, says that there is inadequate research on the impact the virus may have on workers.
Workers classed as working in non-essential jobs are not regularly virus tested. People can be infected but have no symptoms, making it difficult to measure the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces. Employees suffering from occupational diseases are compensated under the Industrial Diseases scheme. COVID-19 is not yet classified as an occupational disease and does not have to be reported by employers under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occupations Regulations 2013.
Professor Watterson says that the families of workers who die from COVID-19 caught in the workplace could take civil action in the courts against the employers to obtain compensation. He said: “COVID-19 has emerged in a very short period of time as an ‘occupational disease’, but gaining official recognition and establishing workplace exposures as its cause may well still prove highly problematic.”
Watterson says that poor planning has increased the threat of COVID-19 in the workplace. He stressed that employers must have stringent measures to protect workers, including enforcing social distancing and the wearing of PPE (personal protective equipment). These measures should apply to those visiting the workplace as well as employees.