The nurses union has welcomed Wagga MP Joe McGirr voting against changes to COVID-19 workers compensation rules, but Business NSW has warned of higher insurance premiums slowing the economic recovery.
The NSW government's legislation passed by the lower house at about midnight on Wednesday by one vote.
If the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill passes the upper house next year, workers will have to prove they contracted COVID-19 through the course of their employment in order to make a compensation claim.
Dr McGirr said he voted against the bill because of concerns that it was unfair to nurses, doctors and healthcare workers, as well as first responders and essential workers.
"I am aware of concerns about the impact on premiums for small business in the community. However, I believe the modelling presented to me by the government was inaccurate and it didn't take into account those people whose claims would be covered by [government agency worker insurance]," Dr McGirr said.
"It also did not, in my view, accurately take into account the impact of the high vaccination rates in the community or the claims experience in Victoria."
Wagga president of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Amit Gupta, said he supported Dr McGirr's position.
"On the one hand the government is thanking frontline workers, you are risking your life and your family, and then they say they won't give any compensation [without proof]," Mr Gupta said.
"It's very hard to prove where COVID infections came from, and if this goes through, nurses will have to forgo the money and engage lawyers to get the compensation."
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the amendment was needed to save small businesses from "massive insurance premium increases over the next 12 months".
"Workers will still be entitled to make a compensation claim ... when the legislation is repealed," he said.
Business NSW Murray-Riverina regional manager Anthony McFarlane said businesses in the region would face insurance increases of $900.
"Small businesses are now just reopening following the harsh lockdowns and we wouldn't want them to be hit with another cost like this, that may not be bearable," he said.
"It's not just the premium, its the time taken in administration and other legal costs that are much more likely when it's easier to bring this sort of claim."
Dr McGirr said he believed the bill would not pass the upper house and the government should have consulted more with unions and businesses.
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