According to the NSW workers compensation legislation, if a worker suffers a work-related injury the worker has the right to claim worker’s compensation. The injury can arise out of a work-related accident or a disease contracted or aggravated in the course of employment.
During the COVID-19 lock down period, more workers are working from home. When workers are working from home, the boundary between worker’s personal activities and work duties are blurred.
In the case of Hargreaves and Telstra Corporation Limited, Ms Hargreaves was an employee of Telstra. Her work arrangement was 3 days’ working in the office and 2 days’ working from home. Ms Hargreaves’ home office was located at on the first floor. When she was working from home, she fell down the stairs at home twice. On one occasion, Ms Hargreaves went downstairs to get cough medicine and she lost balance because of coughing. On the second occasion, she was going downstairs to lock her front door. One critical issue before the Tribunal was if Ms Hargreaves’ physical injuries arose out of, or in the course of, her employment.
The tribunal determined that both of Ms Hargreaves’ falls were occurred in the course of work. Her first fall was considered as having occurred during a work break, her activity “constitutes a need for an absence from her workstation for necessities of nature”. For the second fall, a crucial factor considered by the Tribunal was Ms Hargreaves was required by her employer to keep the screen door of her house locked during the day when she was working from home.
Employers are obliged to take reasonable steps to ensure their employee’s safety when they are working from home. If an employer breaches its duty of care, an injured worker maybe able to claim for work injury damages.
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