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Inclusion of COVID-19 in the European Schedule of Occupational Diseases

Jobs with increased risk of infection affected

JA – 12/2022

On 28 November, the European Commission included COVID-19 in the Recommendation (EU) 2022/2337 on the European schedule of occupational diseases. With this, the European Commission recommends that the Member States recognise COVID-19 as an occupational disease in the health, social and home care sectors, as well as in sectors with a proven increased risk of infection. In addition, COVID-19 is to be recognised as an occupational disease in the context of a pandemic situation if an outbreak is recorded in a particular sector or there is a proven risk of infection in further fields of activity.

Recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease

COVID-19 has been causing significant disruption to operations in all occupational fields since the beginning of 2020. The health and safety of workers continues to be affected by COVID-19 across the European Union. Certain occupational groups are exposed to an increased risk of infection, for example because they are in direct contact with infected persons in the course of their work. Thus, recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease would give affected occupational groups the opportunity to exercise corresponding rights, such as claims for compensation.

Germany: COVID-19 as an occupational disease

The recognition of occupational diseases is the responsibility of the Member States. The European Schedule of Occupational Diseases is therefore only a recommendation for the Member States and is not legally binding. Germany and many other Member States, such as France and Spain, have already recognised COVID-19 as an occupational disease under certain conditions. Nevertheless, the updating of the European Schedule of Occupational Diseases, which has been in existence since 1990 and was last updated in 2003, by the Recommendation (EU) 2022/2337 of the European Commission is an important step to promote the Europe-wide recognition and compensation of COVID-19 as an occupational disease.

As early as May, the representatives of the EU Member States, workers and employers in the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work (ACSH) had agreed on COVID-19 being recognised as an occupational disease in certain occupational fields (see DSV-News 5/2022). They advocated supporting an appropriate update of the EU schedule of occupational diseases. Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, spoke at the time of a "strong political signal to recognise the impact of COVID-19 on workers."