As the coronavirus pandemic was starting to take hold in Victoria, the teachers that clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller was working with were starting to have a troubling realisation: they should start preparing their wills.
Remote learning has lessened the risk of contracting the virus, but created new pressures, with teachers working harder than ever to prepare classes and facing increased scrutiny from parents.
Figures provided to the ABC show more teachers have had WorkCover claims approved for conditions, such as mental injury, related to the pandemic than people in any other profession in Victoria.
Fewer health professionals who have actually contracted coronavirus at work have had claims approved than teachers who have not contracted the virus, figures show.
That is despite the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reporting about 1200 Victorian health professionals have tested positive.
As of 30 July, there were 111 people who had had claims relating to coronavirus approved.
The standardised claims relate to people who have missed more than 10 days of work and have medical expenses of more than $735.
Almost three quarters of the claims relate to people who have not contracted the virus.
As of 30 July, WorkCover had accepted 33 claims based on contracting coronavirus. They include:
• 24 people working in health care and social assistance
• less than five claims from workers in wholesale trade, administrative and support services, public administration and safety, transport, postal and warehousing.
WorkCover has accepted 78 claims based on other impacts, such as mental injury, related to the coronavirus pandemic. The workers who made those claims include:
• 26 in education and training
• 21 in healthcare and social assistance
• 11 in public administration and safety
• five in financial and insurance services and professional, scientific and technical services
• fewer than five claims in wholesale trade, retail, transport, postal and warehousing, information media and telecommunications, administrative and support services.
The figures show that few, if any, workers caught up in one of Victoria’s largest clusters, the outbreak at Cedar Meats Australia, have submitted WorkCover claims, despite the ABC confirming at least one worker spent several weeks in intensive care.
Justin Mullaly, the Victorian Deputy President of the Australian Education Union, said it was also possible some teachers who had contracted the virus at work had not put in WorkCover claims because they could access three months of specific infectious disease leave under their agreement. He said teachers who had to attend school in between the two significant Victorian outbreaks had been particularly concerned for their welfare.
“There are some teachers, support staff and principals who have reported considerable stress and anxiety, particularly in recent times, where they have had to attend onsite,” he said.
Dr Fuller said teachers could be about to enter an even more stressful period.
August was typically the month when motivation slipped most for Year 12 students, he said, a trend which could be even more acute this year given the difficulties of the pandemic.
“The tensions [about] who can motivate these kids, whether it’s parents or teachers, becomes more fraught,” he said.
“There has been a bit of pointing the finger about who is responsible.
“It’s been an almost relentless period of time without any break whatsoever, so they’re working incredibly hard to meet the needs of their students, which is heroic really.”