Belgium extends recognition of Covid-19 as occupational disease

Belgium extends recognition of Covid-19 as occupational disease
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All employees – not just those in the healthcare sector – who contracted Covid-19 after an outbreak at work can now also apply for compensation, the Federal Government decided last Friday evening at the Council of Ministers.

The regulation covers all employees from the private sector as well as from municipal or provincial institutions. They can register with Fedris (the Federal Agency for Occupational Risks), and those who are recognised are entitled to reimbursement of medical costs, such as hospitalisation fees, and compensation for lost wages.

The scheme is retroactive to 18 May 2020 and will continue until at least the end of the year, “but can be extended by the government,” according to a Fedris press release.

For workers who were absent for more than 15 days due to a coronavirus infection, Fedris will reimburse up to 90% of their basic wage.

Up until now, Covid-19 was already recognised as an occupational disease for healthcare workers, as their job put them at an increased risk to be infected. In the past few months, more than 20,000 applications from the healthcare sector have been received, almost 85% of which have been accepted, reports De Standaard.

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Now, the government is also opening the doors to other workers, on the proposal of the Federal Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health Frank Vandenbroucke.

However, strict conditions still apply: at least five people must have tested positive within a two weeks on the same shop floor, and they must also have shared the same workspace. However, these five people do not all have to be employees. “They can also be customers or suppliers, for example,” said Fedris.

Additionally, the working conditions must have facilitated the transmission of the virus (for example, difficulty in keeping a distance), and there must be an epidemiological link between the five infections. “In other words, the infected people must have crossed paths with each other.”

The limit of five infections “is a bit arbitrary,” said Vandenbroucke in the Committee last month, adding that he did think it was a correct way to justify the link between the illness and work. “You have to set a certain limit somewhere in there. We could have used four or six infections as a value, but we chose five.”

Those who think they are eligible can now submit an application through their occupational physician, but it could still take some time before the recognition and payment will happen. Fedris already indicated that the average processing time of a Covid file is at least twice as long as expected: processing can take as long as six months.

Additionally, the time required for the recognition of other occupational diseases has also increased due to the large number of applications.

What to do to get recognition?

If you were infected at work after 18 May 2020, you can contact your occupational physician (company doctor) to make a certificate.

The certificate must show that at least five confirmed Covid-19 infections took place within two weeks in the same working area.

Send the certificate to Fedris, together with your positive Covid-19 lab test, an administrative form and a medical form to be completed by a doctor.


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