Hong Kong has so far recorded thousands of confirmed coronavirus cases. However, The Employees’ Compensation Ordinance(ECO) does not specify whether employees confirmed the disease is a work-related injury or occupational disease. A union has initiated a joint signing to request the government to list the coronavirusInvolved into occupational diseases to protect employees, especially medical staff.
An article published by Law Chi-kwong, the Secretary of Labour and Welfare, pointed out that according to the records of the Labour Department, 380 (92%) of the 415 employee SARS compensation claims filed by the Labour Department were medical staff.”
Dr Ho Pak Leung, Director of the HKU Carol Yu Centre for Infection also pointed out in a commercial program that the Hong Kong government should list COVID-19 as an occupational disease. However, Law Chi-kwong said that there is insufficient data to support the legislation and only recommends that employees can ask employers for compensation with evidence.
What if the medical staff has confirmed with coronavirus at work? Although Severe Respiratory Disease associated with a Novel Infectious Agent is not a prescribed occupational disease under ECO, section 36 of ECO stipulates that an employee may still claim compensation under the Ordinance for a disease if it is a personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment. Employers are also generally liable for compensation under the ECO.
Under the epidemic, employers should raise awareness of occupational safety and health, comply with The Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance, and pursuant to section 6 of the Ordinance,every employer must, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure the safety and health at work of all the employer’s employees.
For example, employers are obliged to prepare thermometers, hand sanitiser, disinfecting wipes, and do the cleaning with bleach/disinfectant, or distribute face masks for colleagues in the office.
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