Is Covid-19 an industrial injury?

It has been three years since the UK went into it’s first lockdown due to Covid-19.  Sadly many people lost their lives and thousands were infected by the virus.  Since the start of the pandemic the Government has reviewed the occupational risks of Covid-19.  In November 2022 the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) published a paper relating to this and considered if Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) could be made available. IIAC considered if there was enough evidence to show if, on the balance of probabilities, it is more likely than not that a case of Covid-19 infection could have been as a result of contact with the virus at work.

IIAC decided that there is only enough evidence available to recommend IIDB be awarded to health and social care workers who suffered with the following five serious conditions.  These are:

  1. Persisting pneumonitis or lung fibrosis following acute COVID-19 pneumonitis;
  2. Persisting pulmonary hypertension caused by a pulmonary embolism developing between 3 days before and 90 days after a diagnosis of COVID-19;
  3. Ischaemic stroke developing within 28 days of a COVID-19 diagnosis;
  4. Myocardial infarction developing within 28 days of a COVID-19 diagnosis;
  5. Symptoms of Post Intensive Care Syndrome following ventilatory support treatment for COVID-19.

The review acknowledged that most people who were infected with Covid-19 experienced relatively mild or short term symptoms but there was a small proportion who reported long term symptoms.  What many of us identify as ‘long-term Covid’ is not on this list despite the fact that the after effects of a diagnosis of Covid-19 can have on daily living and the a ability to perform your job.

The Government has, however, confirmed that they will continue to collect and consider evidence, particularly for other occupations and also on the longer term effects of COVID-19.  It is thought that a third report will be made available in due course.  There is increasing pressure on the Government to recognise Covid-19 as an industrial illness.  Recently the Senior Coroner for South Wales Central recorded the deaths of two nurses, who had contracted Covid-19 after working for the local health board during the early months of the pandemic, as industrial disease. This is very significant as it is thought to be the first case where Covid-19 has been formally recognised as an industrial disease. So watch this space.

Lyndsey Gordon-Webb

Head of Disease Litigation

Watkins & Gunn Solicitors