Post Covid more and more people in Perth are working from home, if not full-time, then at least one or two days per week. What if a person is injured while working at home, can they still claim workers compensation?
Under the West Australian workers compensation scheme an employer is liable to pay a worker compensation if he/she suffers an injury by accident, or, suffers a disease (for example stress or anxiety), while working ‘in the course of the employment’ or ‘whilst acting under the employer’s instruction’. The fact that you are working from home is not determinative of your rights: rather, it is a question of what you were doing when you were injured, where you doing the work that your employer required you to do or where you doing something that was not work related. For examplein the case of Hopkins v Department of Education a high school teacher was working from home and went outside to her car to get a box full of books. While walking outside she tripped down the outside steps and injured her ankle.The accident happened while walking to her car and well after school had actually closed. Nevertheless the Court held that fetching the box from the boot of her car was sufficiently related to her work duties that it was work related and accordingly her claim fell within the Workers Compensation scheme. The Court looked at things like schools expecting teachers to work after hours and to take work home with them. They also considered that in order to mark the books that she would need to carry them from her car and into her house. For those reasons the accident was sufficiently related to her work that she was paid compensation.
In the case of Hargreaves v Telstra a worker worked two days a week from her study at home. She was working when she started to cough. She got up from her computer and went downstairs to get some cough mixture when she fell down the stairs. Later she again got up from her desk and went downstairs to lock the front screen door. She again fell down the stairs. The Court was happy that the falls were sufficiently connected to her work that she was entitled to compensation. In respect of the first fall, the Court said that getting up to get cough medicine was a ‘necessity of nature’, similar to getting up to go to the bathroom. These needs are common and necessary and part or work. In respect of the second fall the Court found that Telstra had actually asked employees to keep their front doors closed because of the risk of crime in the area. Because it was a direction from the employer and the worker was injured while carrying out that direction the worker was entitled to compensation.
The bottom line is that if you are injured while working from home you may still have a good claim for workers compensation payments. Your case will depend on the factual circumstances of your accident – what happened. For example, if in the Hargreaves v Telstra case we wonder whether if the worker had fallen after getting up to go downstairs to cook or clean or answer the door to a friend, whether she still would have won her case. Similarly if the teacher had gone out to her car to collect something else, or to check the mail etc, the outcome of her case might have been very different. But, if you are injured in the course of doing something that is related to your work duties, there is no reason why working from home should make any difference to your right to make a claim for compensation for a work related injury.