COVID-19: Injured while working from home?

COVID-19: Injured while working from home?

The number of infected individuals in declared pandemic, COVID-19 (coronavirus), has grown at a considerable rate in Australia. To minimise the spread within the community, the State of Victoria declared a State of Emergency on 16 March 2020.

This declaration has led to an unprecedented increase in the number of employees working from home.

Whilst workers are busy sorting out technological difficulties in their adjustment to this new style of working, it is also important that they are aware of their rights if they are injured while working from home.

Am I covered if I am injured while working from home?

Your employer is responsible for providing you with a safe workplace even while you are working from home.

WorkCover law states that if you suffer an injury “arising out of or in the course of any employment”, you are entitled to compensation. This entitlement also covers when you are on an authorised break at work.

The lines regarding whether you were acting in the course of your employment when you are working at home can be slightly blurred, however.

For example, difficulties will likely arise about whether your work day has ended – especially given that many individuals often work past their scheduled work times. Due to this, each claim must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis so it can be taken into consideration whether the injury occurred during your normal working hours, whether you were still logged on to the work system when the incident occurred and whether you had intended to return to work when the incident occurred.

Case study

These issues were highlighted in the case of Hargreaves v Telstra Corporation Limited [2011] AATA 417 where a worker sustained injuries after two instances of falling down the stairs in her home while working from home.

The first fall occurred after standard business hours when the worker went down the stairs to retrieve cough medicine. The Tribunal determined that this fall occurred during the course of her employment as she regularly worked late and this was a necessary break that she had to take to relieve her coughing – similar to a bathroom break.

The second fall occurred when the worker was going down the stairs to lock her security door. Her employer had previously instructed her to ensure that the door was locked while she was working from home. As such, the Tribunal determined that this action was the worker following a reasonable direction from her employer and fell within the scope of her employment. 

The worker was thereby entitled to claim compensation for her injuries.

What should I do if I am injured while working from home? 

If you have been injured at home ‘in the course of employment’, it is important to notify your employer of the injury, seek medical assistance and lodge a WorkCover claim as soon possible.

You do not need to show that anyone is at fault for the injury to claim entitlements.

If you would like further advice regarding whether your injury did occur ‘in the course of employment’, feel free to contact us on (03) 9321 9988 for free legal advice.

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