Are you covered for an injury while working from home?

Work from home - woman working on laptop with cat

Flexible work options have been around for a while, however working remotely is becoming more and more common due to ever-changing restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have now had experience working from home during COVID-19 lockdowns.

If you are injured at work doing your usual duties, you are generally covered for workers compensation. However, what happens if you have been injured while working at home?

What are work health and safety obligations?

When you are at work, your employer must provide a safe working environment, this includes physical safety, mental safety and personal safety. For instance, the ergonomic requirements for your work set up (such as your desk and chair) apply, as they would in a typical office setting. Aspects such as adequate lighting, and proper ventilation are also important, as they would be in a typical workplace.

In addition to the usual physical work health and safety obligations, an employer must ensure that psychological risks are minimised. This can be difficult with workers being remote, but the importance is the same as it would be in a typical workplace. Some typical causes for workplace mental injury, such as being overworked, workplace bullying, or lack of support are all risks for mental injury at work, so the employer still has obligations to mitigate those risks.

The home-workplace should be a safe space, in terms of physical (ergonomic) safety and mental health safety. This also extends to workers who may be at risk of domestic violence if they are required to work from home, as a home-workplace poses a risk for someone who may be a victim of domestic or family violence. The employer’s obligation to ensure an employee has a safe working environment can extend to include ensuring the employee’s personal safety is not at risk, when working from home.

What is workers compensation?

In Australia, workers are entitled to compensation through no-fault schemes. The law differs depending on where you are employed, but it is common amongst all laws that you do not need to show that your employer caused you injury by doing something wrong.

Workers compensation is there to cover loss of wages, medical treatment, rehabilitation, return to work support, and compensation for permanent injuries. For more detailed information, see our article on Workers Compensation

Does workers compensation cover you at home?

Yes, just because you are working at home does not mean you are not covered by workers compensation.

This is because workers compensation laws cover injuries caused by employment. The law does not say injured at the employer’s workplace or place of business. Instead, injuries arising out of employment are covered. This is why claims involving journeys during work hours (and sometimes outside work hours) will be covered.

What are your obligations when working from home?

In any situation (working in a traditional workplace, or working from home), a worker has a level of responsibility to look out for their own safety. If you are an employee and have identified potential risks in your home-workplace, you should raise this with your employer. It is also important to distinguish the difference between work at home, and normal activities at home. For instance, if you are an office worker, but injure yourself doing gardening outside of your usual working hours, this would not be covered.

When working from home, the employer still needs to take reasonable steps to check that the employee’s working environment is safe and the risk of injury is low, as would be the case in a usual workplace. 

What makes elringtons experts in workers compensation?

We provide Canberra, Queanbeyan and South-Eastern NSW with specialist legal services in these complex areas.  We have genuine industry knowledge and experience in health and medical care, which enables us to think differently about health and medical issues.  Our in-depth understanding enables us to better understand our clients’ needs, meaning we are better positioned to achieve our clients’ desired outcomes.  This can include accessing a particular treatment, having an injury recognised as being caused by work, or simply working with our clients in an empathetic and genuine manner.

If you have been injured at work, when working from home, you can get in touch with our personal injury team.

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