Causation is a big battleground where COVID-related employers liability claims are concerned, largely because the virus is so transmissible.
This is according to experts from Chubb, who were discussing employers’ duty of care against the backdrop of the global pandemic.
As a result, there has not been the flood of COVID-related EL claims which had been anticipated during the early days of the virus.
Chris Craig, casualty claims manager for the UK and Ireland at Chubb, remembered how a slew of claims management companies had registered domain names with ‘COVID’ in the title during early 2020.
But from a casualty perspective, the losses have not materialised.
“Causation is the big challenge,” he said. “And awards on the back of COVID-related claims are relatively low.”
For international companies, it is difficult navigating the rules surrounding vaccination in different jurisdictions.
Employers are generally unable to mandate vaccination, but this varies in different parts of the world. And it creates challenges where unvaccinated staff remain in client-facing roles and/or have contact with vulnerable individuals.
“The vaccine is a social measure, not a workplace control,” explained Robert Tailby, principal casualty risk engineer for Chubb Europe.
“Before the vaccine you still had people working safely in the workplace and so it’s tough to see that it should be compulsory. You still need to have the same workplace controls in place.”
Those controls are one reason why causation is so hard to prove. Even where there are clusters of positive COVID-19 cases, it does not necessarily follow that the employer has been negligent in its duties, he added.
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Airmic 2021: The COVID EL floodgate that never opened