The 'typical workplace' is changing rapidly thanks to the ability of modern technology to allow people to work from anywhere. There has been a shift towards flexible working arrangements, and uptake has dramatically increased recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen more employees than ever working from home. While this is probably not news to most, you may not have considered what your rights are if you’re injured while working from home. Can you still claim workers compensation from your employer?
Does workers compensation cover employees working from home?
If you injure yourself while working from home, you may be entitled to compensation through a no-fault insurance scheme like WorkCover - the outcome of your claim will depend on whether it can be shown that your injuries occurred in the course of your employment.
For example, in one case, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled that Telstra had to pay the medical and legal costs of an employee who was injured while working from home. The employee, named Dale Hargreaves, was working from home and left her computer to go downstairs to retrieve some cough medicine. On her way she slipped and fell down the stairs, injuring her shoulder.
While Telstra denied liability due to Ms. Hargreaves' remote working location, the Tribunal ruled the fall occurred during her employment and deemed it like any employee taking a break at work. Hargreaves and Telstra Corporation Limited  AATA 417.
Working from home: employer obligations
Employers have a duty of care when it comes to their workers undertaking their tasks from home. The Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 says that employees working from home are still covered when injury occurs.
Employers must take reasonable steps to ensure their employee’s safety, including making sure an employee’s home area meets workplace health and safety requirements, and completing a risk assessment.
An employer should also provide a working from home policy which:
- gives clear instructions on how to perform your duties safely;
- states when or how the employer will inspect the home environment; and
- provides information on when and how employees should report potential health and safety issues.
Employees also have a responsibility to look after their own safety. They should designate a work area that family and other members of the public aren’t allowed to enter during their hours of employment.
Does workers compensation cover freelancers?
Freelancers and contractors are not automatically covered by an employer’s worker’s compensation policy in Australia. If you are a freelancer and want to be entitled to the benefits of worker’s compensation you will need to take out your own insurance policy.
Shine Lawyers – we’re here to help
Shine Lawyers have an experienced legal team who are experts in worker’s compensation law. If you’ve been injured while working from home, our worker’s compensation lawyers can help you secure the compensation you’re entitled to on a no win, no fee basis. To find out more, contact Shine Lawyers and speak to one of our legal experts today. Or you can learn more about the workers compensation claims process here.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 27, 2020.