What are the rights and responsibilities of an employee who is injured while working from home? This is really a two-handed question, but together with our experience and personal injury lawyers, we have the answers you need.
On the one hand, workers need to know what their rights and protections are while working from home. On the other, employers need to know how to avoid injuries, claims and provide safe working environments (even when the workplace is a remote location). If you’ve been injured while working from home or want to know more about injured employee rights, read on.
- Employee or independent contractor?
- Rights & responsibilities of an employee who has been injured while working from home
- Employer rights & responsibilities
Employee or independent contractor?
Before we can go into the rights of employees who have been injured while working from home, we need to briefly distinguish between two kinds of workers:
- Workers who are employees, who have a collection of legally-defined rights and responsibilities with respect to their employers, and;
- Workers who are independent contractors, whose situations are largely defined by contract.
With the rise of the gig economy, the difference between these two workers can become quite muddled. This is why it is absolutely essential that workers, and those for whom they produce work, are explicitly clear with one another about the employment status. This is because gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors must generally rely on their own insurance policies if they are injured while working from home.
Rights & responsibilities of an employee who has been injured while working from home
Let us suppose that your employer has approved a flexible work agreement, under which you work from home on Mondays and Fridays. It helps with the commute – or it did until you tripped on the stairs and broke your ankle. Which begs the question, what are the rights of an employee with a work from home injury?
Can you get worker’s compensation if you work from home?
The critical legal question is whether or not the injury occurred during the course of your employment. The Workplace Health and Safety Act of 2011 states that all employees working from home will still be covered for workers’ compensation if they sustain any type of injury during the course of carrying out their work.
Learn more: WorkCover claim
The good news is that taking a brief break to get a cup of coffee or accomplish a task as directed by your employer may be seen as being “in the course of employment”.
A longer break, taken after logging off from work to run a personal errand, such as picking up the kids from school, may not be seen as being in the course of employment. Special provisions also apply to injuries that occur in other off-site situations – such as a trip taken for the purpose of work.
Your own safety
Employees also have a responsibility to see to their own safety. They should designate a work area that is free of potential safety hazards specifically for employment tasks during agreed-upon hours of employment.
Employer rights & responsibilities
Employers have the same duty of care towards employees working from home as they do towards employees working in the workplace. They must make sure that an employee’s home area meets workplace health and safety requirements. Reasonable steps to ensure your employee works safely include:
- providing a work-from-home handbook policy that sets forth safety standards;
- completing a risk assessment;
- conducting an inspection; and
- instructing employees to report potential health and safety issues.
At first blush, this may seem intrusive, but if the employer is going to be responsible for workers compensation claims they should, to all rights, have an opportunity to mitigate risk and ensure a safe workplace in reasonable ways. Talk to your supervisor or worker’s compensation lawyer immediately if you believe these actions have not been addressed.
Help employees return to work
Employers also have the same legal responsibilities to help employees who work at home return to work after an injury. Even when the injury was non-work related, employers must ensure that injured workers can return safely to work as soon as possible and that they are not treated unfavourably, or become victims of discrimination and harassment because of their injury or illness.
What happens if you can’t return to work after injury?
In NSW, your employer must provide suitable work that matches your capacity and supports your recovery. They are also required to have a ‘return to work program’ in place and cannot dismiss you because of your work-related injury within six months of when you became unfit for work.
Owen Hodge is here for you
If you have been injured while working from home or on a flexible working arrangement, or if you are an employer who wants to minimise the risk of harm to employees working from home, the attorneys at Owen Hodge are here to help.
We can answer those hard hitting questions like:
- What happens if you get injured at work?
- Is there a personal injury claim time limit?
- Can an employer fire you for being injured?
Contact our experienced employment lawyers on 1800 770 780 to find out more about your rights and responsibilities and the steps you need to take. We can also help you to make a common law claim or answer any questions about superannuation insurance so you can protect your income if you do suffer a work-related injury.