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Workers' comp claims set to rise as economy reopens: Finity

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Workers’ compensation claims are likely to increase when the economy opens up, as states and territories transition to “living with COVID-19”, actuarial firm Finity has warned in a new report.

The report says over the duration of the outbreak after reopening, costs of initial COVID treatment and lost income are expected to be significant.

While it is too early to try to quantity the cost, the impact will be “quite material”, Principal and Director Aaron Cutter, the lead author of the report, said.

“We know that the number of infections will be high, so we can surmise that a number of these workers will seek compensation,” Mr Cutter told insuranceNEWS.com.au today.

“The big question is, how many of those infections are actually going to be compensable under a workers’ compensation policy.

“This is going to play out over the next six to 12 months. There’ll be a material impact on operations, and there will be potentially a material impact on … claims payments.”

Finity says its projections show there will be just over 100,000 COVID infections in workers leading to around 10,000 hospitalisations, of which 700 are admitted to intensive care units.

Up to 7000 or an even higher number of long COVID cases may develop, with sufferers fully off work, and twice as many again will still be on reduced work seven months later. Long COVID refers to ongoing symptoms after the resolution of the initial infection.

In an environment where ongoing weekly benefits are available for those with workplace-based infections, long COVID cases have the potential to be financially significant, the report said.

Finity says using $1400 as an amount of weekly compensation, the national lost income bill lies somewhere between $1 million and $8 million per week depending on how high the numbers of long COVID get.

“We don’t know exactly the number [that will be compensated],” Mr Cutter said. “What we’ve tried to put a shining light on is the long COVID group.

“There will be a lot, and probably more than people have realised, many claims if they are successful, that will go on for many, many weeks and months. And so, the financial implications for that are going to be material.”

Finity says for an infection to be considered compensable, it will need to meet the prescribed statutory test to be regarded as having occurred “out of or in the course of employment”.

Click here for the report.