Agreement of the Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work

SW – 05/2022

On 18 May 2022, representatives of European Member States, workers, and employers on the Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work (ACSH) agreed that COVID-19 should be recognised as an occupational disease in the health, social, and home care sectors and in industries with a proven higher risk of infection. They advocated supporting an appropriate update of the EU schedule of occupational diseases.

EU schedule of occupational diseases

The European Schedule of Occupational Diseases is not legally binding and has two annexes. The European Commission's 2003 Recommendation on the European Schedule of Occupational Diseases encourages Member States, without prejudice to more favourable national regulations, to incorporate the European Schedule in Annex I into their laws or regulations governing the diseases, whose occupational origin is recognised. Annex II contains a supplementary schedule of diseases suspected to be occupational, which should be reported and could possibly be included in Annex I of the European Schedule at a later stage.

Recognition of occupational diseases

The Member States are responsible for the recognition and compensation of occupational diseases. In the event that COVID-19 is recognised as an occupational disease in a Member State, workers who have contracted COVID-19 in the workplace may assert rights in accordance with national regulations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some workers were at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. This particularly affected those who came into contact with infected persons, e.g. in healthcare and social services. Other industries may also be at higher risk for COVID-19 infection due to the nature of their operations.

According to the European Commission, most Member States have indicated that they recognise COVID-19 infection as an occupational accident or disease in accordance with their respective national regulations. Also in Germany, a COVID-19 disease can be recognised as an occupational disease or accident under certain conditions. Nevertheless, the update of the European Commission's recommendation is important to promote the recognition and compensation of COVID-19 as an occupational disease by all Member States.

Background and next steps

The ACSH supports the European Commission in the preparation, implementation and evaluation of occupational safety and health activities and facilitates cooperation between national administrations, trade unions and employers' organisations.

The European Commission had already announced in the EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027 that it would update the recommendation on occupational diseases to include COVID-19. A key objective of the Strategic Framework is to strengthen preparedness for any future health crises. The European Commission will now update the recommendation on the schedule of occupational diseases accordingly.

You can find more information on the topic here.