Covid-19 has seen more and more Australian businesses move to work from home. The sudden spike in remote working has resulted in many changes in how businesses operate. This, of course, has implications on things such as legal responsibilities and insurance coverage. Workers are entitled to compensation if injured at work, but what about injuries at the home office? The new normal may have you asking, “what are my rights if I am injured working from home?”
The Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 outlines that employees are still covered when injured while working from home. Employers are required to ensure that you have a safe working environment, even in a work-from-home situation. Queensland businesses should also have a WorkCover accident insurance policy in place.
Getting injured while working from home
According to WorkCover law, workers are entitled to compensation if they suffer an injury “arising out of or in the course of any employment”. However, the line between “course of employment” and free time can seem blurred when working from home.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers have had to work outside their usual hours as they try to balance home-schooling and childcare duties. This is why work from home injury claims will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the injury happened while working. For example, was the employee still logged into workplace systems and software when the injury occurred?
While working from home, the employee also has a duty of care in terms of their own workplace health and safety. It’s the responsibility of the employee to maintain a safe environment. This could include things such as…
- Installing fire alarms
- Restraining animals
- Maintaining electrical equipment
- Repairing broken steps
Case Study: Hargreaves vs. Telstra Corporation Ltd
A famous Australian example of injury compensation while working from home is the Hargreaves vs. Telstra case. Telstra employee Dale Hargreaves slipped down the stairs twice in her home while working remotely for Telstra.
When she took legal action against Telstra, the company denied liability, as the accidents occurred away from her workstation and outside typical office hours.
However, the tribunal ruled that the injury “arose out of Ms Hargreaves’ employment with Telstra”, hence making it a workplace injury.
The first fall occurred when Hargreaves left her desk to retrieve cough medicine from the fridge. It was deemed a workplace accident, as Ms Hargreaves regularly worked late, and the break was a necessary one to ease her coughing.
The second fall occurred when she was locking her front door, as per Telstra’s instructions, after a break-in at her home. This fall was also deemed a workplace accident, as Ms Hargreaves was following a reasonable direction from her employer. Hence, the injury fell within the scope of her employment.
What about contractors and freelancers?
In Australia, contractors and freelancers are not automatically covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation policy. We recommend contractors and freelancers take out their own insurance policies to ensure they are covered in case of injury.
What to do if you get injured while working at home
If you have been injured while working from home, it’s essential to follow the usual procedures. This includes visiting a doctor to get a medical certificate, notifying your employer and lodging a WorkCover claim as soon as you can.
Are you looking for further advice on where you stand in terms of your injury while working from home? Revolution Law can help you with your workers’ compensation claim. We start off by offering free advice over the phone, followed by a coffee meeting where we further discuss your situation and fully disclose our fees. What’s more, if there’s no win, there’s no fee. Contact Revolution Law today.