Big step forward for health and care workers in Europe!


(EPSU Statement - Brussels, 19 May 2022) Yesterday the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work (EU OSHA) made a historic step in the protection and defence of workers by adding COVID to the list of occupational diseases.

This achievement follows months of work by the EPSU secretariat and its affiliates in the health and care sector to protect those that fought, and keep fighting, the worst pandemic of the century. EPSU’s campaign shows what can be achieved if unions work together.

This recommendation will include nurses and assistant nurses in hospitals and other medical facilities; care workers in public, non-for-profit and private care homes; and other similar domiciliary assistants, all workers organised by EPSU and its affiliates. This important step is an acknowledgment of the sacrifices of millions during the pandemic, in particular those in social care. They deserve to be protected from COVID and recognising it as an occupational disease is a step forward.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary, states “The pandemic has hit many workers hard, especially those exposed to infected persons – like those in health and social care. They had – and continue to have - a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Thousands of health and care workers died.  We demanded recognition that not only health workers, but also social and home care workers should be recognised as at-risk. The workers’ group led by EPSU and ETUI convinced the employers and governments to add a new entry.”

The recommendation reads as follows: “COVID-19 caused by work in disease prevention, in health and social care and in domiciliary assistance, or in a pandemic context, in sectors where there is an outbreak in activities in which a risk of infection has been proven.”

Opinon of the EU Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work (ACSH) on the inclusion of COVID-19 in the Commission Recommendation 2003/670/EC concerning the European schedule of occupational diseases in the ACSH Plenary - press release of the European Commission.

Adam Rogalewski, EPSU responsible for health and care work exults, “This is very important in promoting the prevention, recognition, and compensation of occupational diseases. It encourages convergence between Member States in the recognition of occupational diseases. It is a big step forward that we could have not achieved without many hours of work of coordinated work of EPSU and its affiliates. I really thank them for their support.”

Although rules have been relaxed, many people continue to be infected. With new outbreaks, workers at high risk - often women with precarious jobs and low pay, such as those in home care - should now get more attention and not be cast aside as we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.

EPSU will continue to work for health and safety of care and health workers in Europe.

For more information: Pablo Sanchez [email protected]  0032 (0) 47462663