Introduction
ECC action against COVID-19

COVID-19 officially a compensable illness


Introduction

The Labour Code established the Employees' Compensation Commission (ECC) and the Employees' Compensation Programme (ECP). The ECC is the government agency that administers the ECP and is mandated to provide compensation to workers in the event of work-related illness, injury or death.

The ECC previously included 32 illnesses in its List of Occupational and Work-Related Diseases which are compensable under the ECP.(1) Generally, for an occupational disease and resulting disability or death to be compensable, it must be included in the list and all of the following conditions must be satisfied:(2)

  • The employee's work or working conditions must involve risks that caused the development of the illness.
  • The illness must have been contracted as a result of the employee's exposure to the described risks.
  • The illness must have been contracted within a period of exposure and under such other factors necessary to contract it.
  • There must have been no deliberate act on the part of the employee to disregard the safety measures or ignore established warnings or precautions.

ECC action against COVID-19

Prior to the inclusion of COVID-19 in the List of Compensable Work-Related Diseases, the ECC stated that COVID-19 is compensable under the 'increased risk theory'.(3) For an illness and resulting disability or death to be compensable, the claimant must prove:

  • that their illness was the result of an occupational disease as listed; or
  • if not listed, that the risk of contracting the disease was increased by their working conditions.(4)

The latter is called the 'increased risk theory'. Under this theory, there must be reasonable proof that the employee's working conditions increased their risk of contracting the illness or that there is a connection between their work and the cause of the illness.(5) Only reasonable proof of a work connection, and not a direct causal relationship, is required to establish compensability.(6)

Further, in order to assist workers during the pandemic, the ECC expedited the processing of employee compensation for diseases acquired in the line of duty during outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics.(7)

COVID-19 officially a compensable illness

Given the plight of workers, the ECC has officially included COVID-19 in the List of Occupational and Work-Related Diseases.(8) For COVID-19 to be compensable, it must be clinically diagnosed and consistent with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, supported by diagnostic proof, including a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test.(9) In addition, the following conditions must be met:(10)

  • There must be a direct connection between the offending agent or event and the worker based on epidemiological criteria and occupational risk (eg, healthcare workers and screening and contact tracing teams).
  • The tasks assigned to the worker must require frequent face-to-face and close proximity interaction with the public or with confirmed cases in the case of healthcare workers.
  • Transmission must have occurred in the workplace.
  • Transmission must have occurred while commuting to and from work

With the inclusion of COVID-19, there are now 33 illnesses in the List of Occupational and Work-Related Diseases under the ECP. This inclusion does away with employees having to present proof that the risk of contracting COVID-19 was increased by their working conditions.

For further information on this topic please contact Alejandro Alfonso E Navarro, Rashel Ann Pomoy or Gavriil S Sullano at Villaraza & Angangco by telephone (+63 8 988 6088‚Äč) or email ([email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]). The Villaraza & Angangco website can be accessed at www.thefirmva.com.

Endnotes

(1) Annex A, Amended Rules on Employees' Compensation, ECC.

(2) Supra, Annex A.

(3) "ECC Reminds Employees to be More Cautious of COVID-19, Apply EC Benefits if Applicable", 27 February 2020.

(4) Government Service Insurance System v Besitan, GR 178901, 23 November 2011.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Government Service Insurance System v Cordero, GR 171378 & 171388, 17 March 2009.

(7) ECC Board Resolution 20-03-07.

(8) ECC Board Resolution 21-04-14.

(9) Ibid.

(10) Ibid.