The current COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for workplaces. In accordance with the new government guidelines on social distancing, many workplaces are moving their staff to work from home arrangements. Amongst all of the unpredictability of the workforce, it is important for both employers and workers to remember that all of the same workplace health and safety obligations and entitlements for workers extend to their work from home arrangements, or “telecommuting” as categorised by WorkCover Queensland.

Entitlements if you’ve started working from home

If you’ve been moved to a telecommuting arrangement and you injure yourself whilst working from home, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expenses and lost wages. To access these benefits, you must be able to establish that the injury or illness arose out of or during the course of your employment and the employment was a significant contributing factor to the injury.

This could prove challenging to establish whilst working in your home environment, especially if there are no witnesses to the incident. There is a fine line between what could be considered “during the course of your employment” and what is part of your home life. For example, if you trip on the power cord for your work computer whilst in the middle of your work day, this is likely to be considered a compensable injury. However, if you trip on one of your toddler’s toy cars nearby, this is not likely to be considered a work injury.

If you do suffer an injury whilst carrying out a work task or on your designated recess break, it is important you report it to your employer immediately. Try to put something in writing by way of email as well as calling your employer. Seeking immediate medical assistance is also important to corroborate your evidence.

Employer obligations to workers

An employer’s duty of care to their employees remains just as strict when a telecommuting arrangement has been made. Employers must do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of their workers who are now working from home. Some examples of steps employers should be taking are as follows:

  1. Checking a designated and safe workspace has been set up by the worker;
  2. Conducting a risk assessment with the worker to ensure a safe work environment;
  3. Checking in regularly with the worker both to ensure productivity and offering support as appropriate during these unprecedented times.

Unsure about whether you hold any entitlements?

If you have any questions or need any assistance with a potential WorkCover Queensland claim, vbr Lawyers specialise in the area of workers’ compensation law. We are always happy to have an obligation free discussion to assist workers with determining whether they require legal assistance.

This blog was written by Beth De Laurence, Associate

Phone: 07 5593 2122 or Toll Free 1800 316 716

Email: beth@vbrlaw.com.au