Compensation Claims Need a Work Connection

Posted 21-03-2022
Written by admin 101
Category Compensation

Injured workers can receive compensation for injuries that are sustained in work-related activities, but how closely related the activities are to your work is the question. The RMB Compensation Division explains.

On Monday evenings a group of RMB lawyers, law clerks and assistants trade our work clothes for sporting gear, playing futsal in a local mixed competition.

Being the genuine sporting professionals that we are (we wish!), performing a warm-up and stretching is an important pre-game ritual activity.

Recently, one of our team members (who shall not be named) suffered a quadriceps strain on the first kick of the ball in the warm-up. Some debate occurred regarding whether it was this first kick or in fact the line dancing practice our colleague had performed earlier in the evening which caused this calamity.

The injury had an impact, causing our colleague a pronounced limp for several weeks and requiring a few sessions of treatment by a physiotherapist. The question emerged: could this be a workers compensation related injury?

We concluded that it was not, because our team, while consisting of people from our workplace, was not made or encouraged by our employer. The team is unofficially connected and not a requirement of our employer that we play in our local division two mixed competition.

There is no substantial connection between our employment and any injury we sustain on the futsal court.

What of other situations? There are often questions about the more unusual injuries on the edges of employment which seem to have a tenuous connection with work. Are they going to be covered? Can I really get workers compensation for that?

Some recent interesting examples can help shed some light:

Example 1.
A bus driver was recently awarded compensation for treatment expenses for a psychological injury sustained arising from an argument at Campbelltown railway station in the early hours one morning.

The driver needed to go to the toilet and the station attendant refused to open it, saying it was yet to be cleaned. An argument developed, with the driver saying at one stage that if the door was not opened, he would relieve himself on the toilet door. The Attendant was yelling at the driver that he was on camera and on one occasion pushed him away.

The situation arose while the bus driver was on his transport shift and the argument between the two was found to have caused the driver a psychological injury. Locking the toilet doors, preventing the driver from relieving himself and the distress of the situation caused a psychological condition. The Personal Injury Commission ordered the payment of treatment expenses by the insurer. When you have got to go, you have got to go!

Example 2.
Many people have been working from home more during the pandemic. Can you receive workers compensation benefits for an injury sustained while working from home? Potentially yes. A home office set up needs to be ergonomically appropriate, with appropriate desk height, chair height etc. If a bad neck or back is developed through posture in a home office set up, then employment may be a substantial contributing factor to the injury and workers compensation could be payable.

It is less straightforward with other illnesses that could arise at home. If you work from home and live with a spouse and contract COVID from them, could you be covered? Proving you contracted COVID from your spouse while at home during your work time, rather than personal time would seem to be difficult.

The employment needs to be the main contributing factor to the development of any injury or illness that arises gradually over time.

Example 3.
In the infamous and oft-cited Commonwealth compensation case of PVYW v Comcare, the High Court was asked to determine whether a worker who sustained injury when a chandelier fell on her during an intimate moment in a hotel bedroom was covered by workers compensation.

Her argument essentially was that as the employer required her to be in the town overnight for a multi-day conference and had booked the hotel room, that the injury would qualify for compensation..

The High Court disagreed, with injury sustained during such personal after work pursuits not found to have a sufficient connection with employment to create a liability for the employer. The activity was a private recreational pursuit and was not done under any encouragement by the employer.

In NSW employment needs to be the substantial contributing factor to an injury or the main contributing factor to a disease of gradual process. There are no costs for any conference and advice, with all advice in NSW workers compensation claims able to be funded through a grant from the Independent Review Office.

If you sustain an injury in unusual circumstances and require advice about whether you could be covered by workers compensation benefits, the compensation team at RMB Lawyers would be pleased to provide you with advice about your potential claim. Your first step should be to contact our office to arrange a free consultation. You can contact us by by phone or our 'Ask a Question' tool on our website.