COVID litigation is now one of the biggest risks for business bottom line

Jeremy Morgan, Vaxxvault cofounder

With COVID vaccinations being mandatory for workers globally in multiple businesses imposing their own requirements for staff vaccinations, businesses are facing challenging and complex times carrying the weight of responsibility for managing vaccinations and testing.

Jeremy Morgan, Vaxxvault cofounder had the following insights.

“COVID litigation is a growing problem for businesses all over the world.”

“In the last 6 months in the US, there have been approximately 4,000 lawsuits filed against employers relating to Covid including over 300 class actions.”

Australian firm Vaxxvault is a world-first mobile app-based solution that provides the ability to capture testing and vaccination data for business. The solution empowers businesses to manage the testing and vaccination status workers, through an easy-to-use app.

“It seems class action claims have evolved and taken on a new twist in the wake of COVID. Already the pandemic has triggered litigation across a broad range of areas including privacy, data security, health impacts, loss of income and many others.”

“The first swathe of COVID litigation were related to privacy and data security actions.”

Businesses face a double jeopardy

According to Morgan, many businesses are facing a double-edged sword; the need to get staff back to work and the need to manage a complex and dynamic risk environment with the possibility of surging COVID cases and regular ongoing testing.

“The opening of borders is only going to intensify the issues facing businesses.”

Managing partner of Peterson Haines, Carrie Peterson, also believes the risk of litigation is increasing for the business sector. Peterson Haines is a modern progressive law firm specializing in commercial litigation and dispute resolution.

“Businesses need to understand their level of risk. Last year, the Workers Compensation legislation was amended to introduce a new section which raised the risk.”

“It is presumed that if a person employed in ‘prescribed employment’, such as the health sector, the retail industry and so on, contracted COVID-19, then for the purposes of bringing a Workers Compensation claim, it is presumed that they contracted the disease from work.

“If such an employee brings a workers compensation claim, the onus of proving the employee was exposed elsewhere sits with the employer.”

“Whilst all employers expect their Workers Compensation insurance to cover said claims, the employer can still be exposed to other claims, which can result in damages payable to the employee. Employers must provide employees with safe working conditions.”

Businesses need to show a firm hand

Morgan is of the view that businesses that don’t make clear, concise and urgent action to manage the vaccination status of workers, contractors and others associated with the business, will only add to the degree of potential negligence involved.

“COVID will be here several years to come. It has already changed our lives considerably including our working lives, and now we need to look at ways of ensuring we are managing our response at an organizational level in a systematic, respectful and comprehensive way.”

“Employers need to be able to manage and report on the rollout of vaccinations and tests across their organizations at an individual level, site level, state level or at an enterprise level.”

“The only way many businesses can support people to transition back to work safely and protect workers, as well as clients, is to have an effective digital tracking system in place.”

“If we look at countries like the UK which has largely reopened its economy, some 80% of its population over the age of 12 has had two doses and 16% has had a third booster shot (which is ahead of Australia). The UK is averaging 37,000 cases and 214 deaths per day.

Apply this experience to Australia, we should be anticipating 15,000 cases and 85 deaths per day. The scenario is not designed to create fear, but rather to illustrate that the need to address COVID head-on with protocols reliable to allow continuity for the next years.”