The world has seen a massive shift in work patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic, with workers ditching their daily commute to the office in favour of their study or dining room table. With post-pandemic work patterns likely to remain permanently altered as employers embrace remote working, workers compensation claims arising from working from home are expected to increase.
Just because you are not physically in the workplace, does not mean your employer can ignore its obligations in regard to your safety. Your employer has a responsibility to provide you with a safe workplace, and this includes when you work from home.
Can I lodge a workers compensation claim if I am injured whilst working from home?
Yes. If you are working from home and you are injured, you can lodge a workers compensation claim. Your claim should be accepted if it satisfies the relevant legislative tests under the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW). For example, your injury must arise out of or in the course of your employment, and your employment must be a substantial contributing factor to your injury (for disease injuries, your employment must be the main contributing factor to the contraction of the disease).
Whether your injury will meet these tests depends on a number of factors, including what you were doing at the time you were injured, and when you were injured. Each case is determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the individual circumstances. There must be a causal link (‘arising out of’) or alternately, a temporal link (‘in the course of’) between your employment and your injury.
Case example: Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer v Hill
A recent case highlighting the liability of employers for employees working from home is Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer v Hill (‘Hill‘). Handed down by the NSW Court of Appeal on 31 March 2020, Hill demonstrates just how complex issues of this nature can be. The court found in Hill that an employer can be held responsible for injuries (and in this case, death) caused by family violence when an employee is working from home.
Ms Hill was killed by her de facto partner, Mr Carroll, when working from home. Both Ms Hill and Mr Carroll were employed in a family business, which was operated from their home. Both were financial advisors. Mr Carroll suffered paranoid delusions that Ms Hill was conspiring to steal his clients and ruin him professionally. Tragically, he attacked Ms Hill with a hammer and killed her. He was charged with murder, however, was found not guilty due to insanity.
The children of Ms Hill brought a claim for workers compensation, claiming Ms Hill’s death resulted from injuries she sustained at work. The claim was denied by the workers compensation insurer. It was heard in the Workers Compensation Commission, and Ms Hill’s children were successful in their claim. It was appealed by the insurer to the Workers Compensation Commission Deputy President and the appeal was dismissed. The insurer appealed again to the NSW Court of Appeal.
The NSW Court of Appeal found that the Workers Compensation Commission did not err in finding there was a sufficient link between Ms Hill’s employment and her death.
As Mr Carroll was Ms Hill’s co-worker and supervisor, although “it was not a contractual condition of [Ms Hill’s] employment that she work with the risk of sudden and violent attack… the risk, which materialised, was part of a hostile working environment created by [Mr Carroll].” Mr Carroll’s paranoid delusions also related (at least in part) to Ms Hill’s work duties. 
Furthermore, as Ms Hill worked from home, she sustained the injuries which caused her death whilst she was ‘on call’ at work. This was because, although the attack happened in the early hours of the morning whilst Ms Hill was in bed, there was enough evidence to support that Ms Hill worked outside regular office hours, including sometimes in the early morning, on weekends and at night. 
The court therefore found both tests were satisfied; Ms Hill’s injuries causing her death both arose out of, and were sustained during the course of, her employment.
Injured whilst working from home?
If you have been injured whilst working from home, you should immediately report your injury to your employer and seek medical treatment to ensure you are complying with your obligations as an injured worker. It is also a good idea to seek legal advice if you are thinking about, or have lodged, a workers compensation claim. For advice regarding your workers compensation rights and entitlements, contact our expert workplace lawyers on 13 43 46.
 Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) s 4.
 Ibid s 9A.
 Ibid s 4.
  NSWCA 54.
 Ibid .
 Ibid [45-49].
 Ibid [40-44].