With COVID-19 cases continuing to pose a significant threat throughout Thailand, many employers have ordered their employees to work exclusively from home in order to minimize their chances of contracting the virus. However, this luxury is not afforded to all employees—some are unable to work from home due to the nature of their work, and consequently they are placed in the precarious position of being exposed to possible infection.
Thailand’s Social Security Office (SSO) understood these risks early in the pandemic and, in March 2020, issued guidelines through the Workmen’s Compensation Fund Office on employees’ entitlement to claim benefits from the workers’ compensation fund (WCF) if they contract the virus as a result of their work. The WCF provides medical-related assistance and compensation to employees who directly suffer from a work-related injury or sickness (subject to certain conditions). Falling ill with COVID-19 during the performance of work duties may constitute suffering work-related sickness, thereby allowing employees to claim compensation from the WCF by submitting the Kor Thor 16 form, a medical certificate, treatment records, records of the employee’s working hours, and other relevant documentation.
Upon receiving a claim, the SSO will investigate by collecting facts and evidence from the employer, the infected employee and his or her colleagues, and any witnesses. The official will examine the employee’s duties and working conditions in detail, taking into consideration any relevant information, such as evidence regarding the employee’s travel or movements prior to falling sick. Once all the facts and evidence are gathered, the matter will be submitted to a medical subcommittee responsible for determining whether the employee’s onset of COVID-19 is due to his or her work. If the subcommittee finds that the employee’s contraction of the virus did indeed result from the performance of his or her work duties, the employee will be entitled to compensation in accordance with the Workmen’s Compensation Act (No. 2) B.E. 2561 (2018).
An employee who needs treatment before this determination (i.e., while the workers’ compensation claim is pending) can first seek medical care under the Social Security Fund from the hospital at which he or she is registered. If the subcommittee subsequently rules that the COVID-19 case was in fact work-related, the employee will be able to claim compensation from the WCF.
It can be challenging to collect the evidence necessary to determine the source of an employee’s infection—especially when the employee has also frequented non-work locations or lives with other family members who may have been exposed to the virus. Nevertheless, the ability to receive compensation from the WCF for work-related cases of COVID-19 helps to ensure that employees—especially those working on the front lines—have adequate protection against the financial impact of falling sick with COVID-19.