20.10.2021 Reports & surveys

COVID-19 infection – when can it be considered an occupational disease?

Coronavirus infection cannot be qualified as an accident at work, but it can be considered an occupational disease. This is confirmed by the position of the National Labour Inspectorate.

COVID and an accident at work

According to the Labour Code, for an event to be considered an accident at work, a total of four conditions must be met:

  • relation to the work,
  • external cause,
  • the suddenness of the event,
  • the injury’s occurrence.

COVID-19 infection cannot therefore be classified under this category, but may be considered an occupational disease. In order to be so, several important conditions set out in current legislation must be met.

COVID and an occupational disease

An occupational disease is a situation in which an illness occurs in the workplace or under occupational exposure conditions, i.e. in connection with the performance of work activities.

Coronavirus infection can occur in the workplace, so the above condition can be met. Moreover, the list of occupational diseases contained in the Ordinance of the Council of Ministers of 30 June 2009 on occupational diseases includes “infectious or parasitic diseases or their consequences”, and in the list of harmful biological agents of the Ordinance of the Minister of Health of 22 April 2005 on biological agents harmful to health in the work environment and health protection of workers professionally exposed to such agents, the SARS virus appears, qualified to hazard group 3. The next condition is also fulfilled.

Of course, in order for a COVID-19 infection to be considered with certainty an occupational disease, it is necessary to establish that the infection occurred in connection with work and was associated with the performance of work duties, and that the confirmed illness changes caused by the disease indicate a permanent deterioration of health. The level and scope of sickness benefits provided in respect of an occupational disease will depend on the impact of the disease and its effect on the ability to perform the job.

To sum up, COVID-19 can be considered to be an occupational disease, but each individual case should be considered separately. Ultimately, it is up to the competent national sanitary inspector to determine whether a disease in a particular case is an occupational disease.

Learn more: New sick leave control rules in 2022

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