Throughout the 21st century, technological advancement has greatly improved the ability and efficiency of workplaces, allowing for communication and research to occur at a click. Over the last 10 years, there has been a greater emphasis on allowing workers the freedom to work from home when necessary, with many workplaces having the technology and software systems to allow this. This allowance of working from home has assisted many workers with specific commitments such as being a carer, to continue working and not having to utilise leave.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the need to work from home has become more prevalent than ever. Since the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 March 2020 that the country would be on lockdown, many workplaces have been forced the work remotely. While probably not the main concern of workers during this time, it should be noted that workers retain their workers compensation rights, even when working from home.
Ability to claim workers compensation while working from home
In determining a worker’s ability to claim workers compensation, it must first be determined what kind of system the workers compensation system is?
The workers compensation system is a “no fault” scheme, which allows workers to make a claim for injuries which have occurred during the course of their employment. There is no necessity to prove that the employer was negligent, whether by the safety standards or how their workplace is set up (this would relate to making a work injury damages claim or negligence claim against the employer). The only determining factors of a workers compensation claim are:
- That an injury (psychological or physical) occurred under s4 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987; and
- That the injury occurred as a result of the employment being a substantial contributing factor, under s9A.
In relation to the above factors, it must be determined that the worker’s injury arises out of, or in the course of, employment. Take the example of Catherine Hopkins v Department of Education & Communities  NSWWCC 258. In this matter, the Applicant sustained an injury while at home, when she was attempting to walk down her outside steps to get a box full of books she was required to mark, when she slipped and fell. It was deemed in this case that due to time constraints at her school, she was required to perform marking and class preparation at home. As a result of this, while attempting to pick up the box of books for the purposes of work, she sustained an injury, this being deemed to have occurred “out of, or in the course of, employment.”
On the second point of “substantial contributing factor”, it was deemed in the matter of Mercer v ANZ Banking Group  NSWCA 138, in looking at what is deemed a substantial factor, you must look at what the worker does in their employment, and whether that caused or contributed to the ‘injury’ under section 4. In the matter noted above, it was deemed that there was a causal link between the injury and the worker’s work, as she was attempting to pick up the box of books in order to perform marking. In attempting to perform that work she sustained a physical injury.
Although the example above relates to physical injuries, a worker is eligible to make a claim for workers compensation if they sustain a psychological injury during the course of employment from home. As long as they meet the requirements noted above, that they sustain a recognisable psychological injury, out of or in the course of employment, and that the employment was a substantial contributing factor to that injury, the worker is eligible.
In the context of working from home, an example may be where a worker is required to be in contact with superiors and colleagues through video link and emails. If in those circumstances a worker is bullied or harassed via emails and video conferences, and as a result of that harassment the worker sustains a psychological injury, then they are able to bring a workers compensation claim.
In summary, in this changing working environment it is important to note that workers continue to maintain their rights to workers compensation. Although their office may look different, workers working from home continue to be protected under the workers compensation scheme in the event they are injured. In the event that they are able to satisfy the above factors, it is highly likely that a worker will be provided compensation in the event of a physical or psychological injury.
How can we help?
We successfully deal with numerous claims for physical and psychological injuries that occur in the course of a worker’s employment.
If you or a friend have suffered an injury as a result of employment, we are willing to assist in obtaining compensation on your behalf. Please note that a claim for workers compensation will not leave you out-of-pocket, with our legal services being funded by the independent body, Independent Review Office (IRO).
Written by Michael Greene
Michael Greene is a lawyer in Anna Tavianatos’ Practice Group. Michael works on a variety of different compensation matters, with a particular focus on workers compensation and work injury damage claims.