Can I make a claim if I injure myself while working from home?
If you are working from home because of the coronavirus or otherwise and suffer injury you may be able to claim WorkCover benefits.
To make a claim you need to be an employee or otherwise satisfy the definition of a worker for WorkCover purposes. In some cases, this includes contractors. To make a claim you also need to prove you suffered injury during the course of your employment.
When working from home the line between being at work and being at home can easily blur, such as putting a load of washing on the line in between work phone calls. So, depending on when and how you were injured and determining whether the injury occurred while you were "at work" may get complicated. These types of cases can end up before the courts and are decided on their own facts.
Is there a significant contributing factor to injury?
In some cases, such as aggravation of a pre-existing injury, you will also need to show that your employment was a "significant contributing factor" to you suffering the injury. This test is not always easy to satisfy and there is a range of criteria the courts consider when answering this question.
The “significant contributing factor” test also applies to diseases, such as coronavirus COVID-19.
If you suffer an injury while you are at work, including when working from home, you need to notify your employer within 30 days of becoming aware of the injury, as required by the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013. This time limit may only be waived in certain circumstances set out in the Act. A lawyer can advise you of your chances of getting your claim accepted if you fail to notify your employer of the injury within the 30 day time limit or there is a delay in you lodging a WorkCover claim.
How to make a claim?
To make a claim you need to fill out a Workers Injury Claim Form. These can be downloaded from the Worksafe website.
You need to submit a Certificate of Capacity with the claim form if you are unable to work because of your injury and wish to claim weekly payments. The initial certificate needs to be completed by a medical practitioner. You don’t need a certificate if you are only claiming medical expenses.
If you suffer permanent injury as a result of being injured while working from home you may be eligible for lump sum compensation in the form of a no-fault impairment benefit lump sum, and/or in what would probably be a rare case, common law damages. You should seek legal advice if you think you have a lump sum claim.
Employers owe a duty of care to all employees, regardless of whether they are working in the workplace or out of their homes, and to discharge this duty must do what is reasonable to ensure employees have a safe working environment. If an employee is working from home, their home office, just like their regular workplace, if they have one, should comply with occupational health and safety requirements.
Can I make a WorkCover claim if I have the coronavirus?
It all depends. To make a WorkCover claim for COVID-19 you would need to provide evidence of a diagnosis and prove both that you contracted the coronavirus in the course of your employment and that your work was a “significant contributing factor” to you contracting the disease.
In practice this probably means you would need to show that you most likely contracted coronavirus through your work rather than by another other means. An increase in coronavirus cases is likely to make it harder for workers with COVID-19 to satisfy the “significant contributing factor” test to make a WorkCover claim.