COVID-19 has created what has been described as the largest working-from-home experiment the world has ever seen. The current pandemic has caused a fundamental change in the way many of us work and the location we are now working from. One of the interesting issues which arises from this shift is the question of what compensation entitlements a person might have if they suffer an injury whilst working at home.
Every state and territory’s rules differ, but workers’ compensation generally applies to workers who suffer physical or psychological injuries whilst doing their job. The location of work is not usually important, so as a starting point, injuries which occur whilst you’re performing work tasks at home are potentially covered by workers’ compensation. However, you may face more complex legal issues than normal for claims relating to home-working due to the need to prove the circumstances in which your injury occurred.
Although most injuries are sustained in straightforward circumstances, working from home means that some more unusual scenarios might arise, for example tripping over on a lunchtime walk around the neighbourhood.
Generally, workers’ compensation will still apply provided your injury occurred:
- within your normal working hours; or
- whilst you were taking what would have been an authorised break if you had been at your normal workplace; and
- you were not taking an abnormal risk at the time of the accident.
For example, collecting footballs from the roof at morning tea might be deemed as taking an abnormal risk and therefore not be covered. But a simple scenario such as falling over whilst taking a walk at lunchtime may well be.
People who already had an underlying health condition which has now been aggravated by some aspect of working from home may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits even though their original condition was not work-related. In this situation, work usually needs to have significantly contributed to an aggravation or acceleration of the underlying condition. If that threshold is met, then the entitlement to benefits will usually be the same as if the injury was a new one.
Benefits available under workers’ compensation schemes vary between states and territories, but will generally include coverage for medical expenses, income support during time off work, and potential lump sum compensation for injuries which result in long-term impairments.
Happily, it may well be that fewer injuries are sustained by workers whilst working from home, as there will be fewer potential hazards – for example machinery, heavy lifting – than in a workplace. As well as the flexibility which home-working offers, a reduction in injury rates would be a real positive. However, for those who do sustain an injury whilst working from home, it is important to be aware that you may be entitled to support under your state or territory’s workers’ compensation scheme.
If you do sustain an injury whilst working from home, you should report this to your employer and obtain medical treatment as soon as possible in order to provide the best prospects of your claim being accepted by the workers’ compensation insurer. If claims are rejected or workers sustain injuries which are likely to result in significant time off work or long-term consequences, it is sensible to obtain expert legal advice so as to ensure that technicalities are not used by insurers to reject claims or reduce entitlements.
Need more information?
If you've been injured whilst working from home and would like to know more about your rights and entitlements, get in touch with one of our experienced lawyers
The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.