COVID now one of the biggest risks for business bottom line as litigation and claims ramp-up

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COVID now one of the biggest risks for business bottom line as litigation and claims ramp-up
The need to address COVID is not going away.
Photo by Maxime on Unsplash

COVID litigation is a growing problem for businesses all over the world.  

With governments across the world declaring COVID vaccinations mandatory for workers in multiple industries and businesses imposing their own requirements for staff vaccinations, businesses are facing challenging and complex times carrying the weight of responsibility for managing vaccinations and testing.

In the last six months in the US, there have been approximately 4,000 lawsuits filed against employers relating to Covid including over 300 class actions.

It seems class action claims have evolved and taken on a new twist in the wake of COVID.  Already the pandemic has triggered litigation across a broad range of areas including privacy, data security, health impacts, loss of income and many others.

Among the first round of COVID cases were a number relating to privacy and data security actions.  Unfortunately, many businesses are facing a double-edged sword; the need to get staff back to work and the need to manage a complex and dynamic risk environment with the possibility of surging COVID cases and regular ongoing testing.   The opening of borders is only going to intensify the issues facing businesses.

Managing partner of Peterson Haines, Carrie Peterson, also believes the risk of litigation is increasing for the business sector.  Peterson is of the view that businesses need to understand their level of risk.   

Last year, the Workers Compensation legislation was amended to introduce a new section in which it is presumed that if a person employed in ‘prescribed employment’, such as the health sector, the retail industry and so on, contracted COVID-19, then for the purposes of bringing a Workers Compensation claim, it is presumed that they contracted the disease from their workplace.

If such an employee brings a workers compensation claim, the onus of proving the employee was exposed elsewhere sits with the employer. Whilst all employers would expect their Workers Compensation insurer to cover such claims, the employer can still be exposed to other claims, including negligence claims, which can result in damages payable to the employee. Employers must provide employees with a safe workplace and safe working conditions. 

Businesses that don’t take clear, concise and urgent action to manage the vaccination status of workers, contractors and others associated with the business, will only add to the degree of potential negligence involved.

COVID will be part of our lives for several years to come. It has already changed our lives considerably including our working lives, and now we need to look at ways of ensuring we are managing our response to COVID at an organisational level in a systematic, respectful and comprehensive way. 

Employers need to be able to manage and report on the rollout of vaccinations and tests across their organisations at an individual level, site level, state level or at an entire enterprise level.

The only way many businesses can support people to transition back to work safely and protect workers as well as clients, customers and others, is to have an effective digital tracking system in place.

If we look at other countries such as the UK which has largely reopened its economy back up, some 80 percent of its population over the age of 12 has had two doses and 16 percent has had a third booster shot (which is ahead of Australia). The UK is averaging 37,000 cases and 214 deaths per day. If we apply this experience to Australia, we should be anticipating 15,000 cases and 85 deaths per day. This scenario is not designed to create fear, but rather to illustrate that the need to address COVID is not going away and protocols and systems will be required for the foreseeable future.

Jeremy Morgan is a Director at www.vaxxvault.com.

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