Coronavirus – illness from COVID-19 can be an occupational injury

The Danish Ministry of Employment has issued guidelines on the assessment of occupational injury cases where employees are ill with COVID-19.

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The Ministry of Employment's new guidance makes it clear that employees who are affected by illness as a result of COVID-19 can have that illness recognised as an occupational injury if it is probable that the affected person was exposed to a specific infection during work or was exposed to infection for a period in connection with his or her work.

In the assessment, it is important to establish whether the employee forms part of the groups of people who are exposed to severe risk of infection in connection with their daily work, because the work (such as in the health and social care sectors) involves direct contact with patients or other citizens. In addition, the employee's ability to comply with behavioural measures and the use of protective equipment can be taken into consideration.

However, the guidelines also describe how, by reference to a specific incident, it can be rendered probable that the employee was infected in connection with his or her work, such as a situation where a pizza delivery person delivers pizza to a COVID-19 infected person in quarantine and is coughed at or sneezed in the face, or where a police officer has had close contact with a COVID-19 infected person who vomited.

The guidelines e.g. contain information about:

  • when COVID-19 can be considered an occupational disease
  • when illness resulting from COVID-19 can be considered as a work accident
  • what to consider in assessing the right to compensation
  • reporting obligation for doctors and dentists
  • reporting obligation for employers

Employer’s reporting obligation
The employer must notify the authorities if an employee has become ill with COVID-19 and it is suspected that the employee may have been infected by a specific incident or by brief exposure to infection for up to five days in connection with work. The employer must also notify the authorities if it is expected that the employee will be entitled to benefits under the Danish Workers’ Compensation Act, such as treatment expenses or reimbursement for permanent injury, or if he or she has been fully or partially sick for more than five weeks.

If, on the other hand, the employee has been infected without it being possible to attribute the infection to a specific incident or to a short exposure to infection in connection with work, it will be up to the employee's doctor to assess whether there is a basis for reporting the infection as an occupational disease.

The detailed conditions for recognition as an occupational injury are given in the instructions which can be found here (in Danish). 

The content of the above is not, and should not be a substitute for legal advice.

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