‘WFH’ or ‘Working From Home’ has become a popular acronym since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Many employment experts believe the shift of thousands of office workers from on-site workplaces to remote, home offices made necessary by the pandemic will become – at least part of the week – a permanent feature of our society.
That trend raises several questions about the home workplace. Are people working from home covered by the same laws and regulations as those who attend the office?
The extent of that question can be complex but there is fairly clear guidance on what happens in the specific event that a person working from home injures themselves and wishes to claim to compensate for the harm.
Can you claim compensation when working from home?
Worksafe Queensland is clear that employers who allow an employee to perform their role from home maintain a duty of care for the employee and must do what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to ensure the health and safety of that worker in the home environment.
In practice, this means that an injury sustained while working at home can be the subject of a workers’ compensation claim, provided the injury was sustained in the course of your employment. This means that the requirements of the role were a significant contributing factor to the injury.
Even an injury sustained during a break at home, such as morning tea or lunch, is compensable provided you did not do anything which exposed you to an abnormal risk of injury.
What factors might be taken into account in assessing a claim?
While an employer has a duty of care for the health and welfare of a remotely working employee, a person working from home also has obligations to meet.
Specifically, an employee must observe all health and safety policies, procedures and instructions provided by the employer.
This can include:
- Accurately following procedures on how work is performed;
- using equipment appropriately provided by the workplace;
- maintaining a safe work environment (including lighting, ventilation, space, work posture, etc);
- maintaining equipment used for work in good, safe order;
- maintaining safety equipment such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in good working order;
- reporting any changes or factors that may affect the health and safety of the person working from home. Note: this can even extend to notifying if a person believes they are at risk of domestic violence.
In Hargreaves v Telstra Corporation Limited  AATA 417, a Telstra employee slipped and fell downstairs at home not once, but twice, injuring her shoulder. On one occasion she was wearing socks. Nevertheless, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that the company was liable for the employee’s medical and legal costs because the fall had occurred during the course of her employment.
Cases such as this remind that employers must ensure a home workplace meets the required health and safety standards before agreeing to the employee working in the location.
There should be clear policy guidelines for working from home and a reporting process for when an injury occurs.
Contractors, freelancers and the self-employed who are injured while working from home are unlikely to be able to make a workers’ compensation claim against the entity they are doing work for unless they can show they are entitled to employee status.
This class of worker will more likely have to rely on personal injury insurance to cover any work-related injury or illness.
Ask us about working from home
If you’re planning to work from home, or have injured yourself while doing your work role in the home environment, contact Lifestyle Injury Lawyers today for advice. We are compensation specialists and can advise on whether you have a viable claim in this sometimes complicated area of the law.