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Nursing homes - high-risk work places during the pandemic

Barcelona court grants first case of COVID as an occupational disease

Barcelona court grants first case of COVID as an occupational disease

This was awarded to a woman who got infected while working at a nursing home in the city

Social Court 3 in the city of Barcelona has issued the first ruling in Spain that recognizes the contraction of COVID-19 infection as an occupational disease. The beneficiary was a geriatric assistant who worked at the Bertran i Oriola nursing home and was temporarily disabled between 29 March and 1 May of 2020 due to the viral infection.

The lawsuit filed was one of twenty such demanding recognition

The news was reported by Collectiu Ronda, the law firm which represented the interests of the plaintiff in the matter. The woman sought recognition of COVID-19 illness as a disability and thus claimed compensation from the Spanish Social Security (INSS) and the company she worked for.

The ruling recalls that the Occupational Diseases Framework, in force since 2006, already considers as a specific occupational risk for workers, such as those in nursing homes and geriatric centres, the exposure to diseases caused by biological agents among which, and explicitly, it cites viruses belonging to the coronavirus family.

In the period between 27 March and 1 April 2020, a total of 9 workers at the Bertran and Oriola residence (located in La Barceloneta district) had to take a medical leave due to infection with Covid-19. This happened before June of that year, the Labour Inspectorate opened disciplinary proceedings against the nursing home management company.

For Oriol Arechinolaza, a lawyer from Collectiu Ronda, it is "sad and deeply disappointing to have to consider this sentence as a great milestone since it actually denoted, once again, the will of the INSS and labour unions to minimize the protective mantle of Social Security on the working class. This issue should never have reached the courts. Current regulations clearly state that coronavirus infection is a specific occupational risk for staff in nursing homes.”

However, it was an alternative type of trade union, called co.bas (or Base Commission Union) that supported the lawsuit, and expressed their hope that this pioneering resolution opens the door to a real avalanche of favourable demands and resolutions “to a labour group that has suffered from the front line and in conditions of maximum precariousness the exposure to Covid-19”.

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