When you think of workers’ compensation, you probably think of accidents or injuries – something falling, equipment breaking, or getting hurt from doing the same action again and again. But what about illness? How does workers comp deal with getting sick? Does workers’ comp cover if you have to miss work because of a cold? What if you have to go to the doctor and stay home for a week with the flu – is that covered by workers’ comp? Does it matter how contagious the disease is? Does it matter if it is a long-term disease or one that will be over quickly? Does workers’ comp cover if you have to miss work because you’re sick?
Types of Illness
Everyone gets sick sometimes, no matter how well you wash your hands. You can get a cold from your buddy, a cough from your neighbor, or the pink eye that’s going around your child’s classroom. If you have sick days,you may take time off of work in order to heal up. Even if you don’t have sick days, you may need to not work if you’re too sick to do your job.
When you’re talking about workers’ comp, there are two broad categories of illness: occupational diseases and everyday diseases. Everyday diseases are regular diseases like coughs, colds, the flu, stomach bugs, and other diseases that people will get from family, friends, neighbors, and even coworkers. This category also includes most chronic diseases, including most types of cancer.
Occupational diseases are illnesses that you get because of your job. They are often (but not always) caused by repeated exposure to toxins, such as coal dust or certain types of smoke or chemicals. You must prove that you have the disease due to your job, and would not have gotten the disease if you did not have your job.
Catching a disease from a coworker doesn’t count as an occupational disease, even if you have to miss work to recover.
What Illnesses Workers’ Comp Covers
Workers’ comp covers the treatment of occupational diseases, or diseases that you get specifically due to the job you are doing and would not be able to get if you did not do that job.
Workers’ comp does not cover everyday diseases such as stomach viruses, colds, or the flu, even if you were infected by a coworker and even if you have to take time off work to get better.
The blog post Occupational Diseases and Workers’ Comp can give you more details about what counts as an occupational disease and what workers’ compensation benefits you qualify for.