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More and more employers today are offering employees flexible work schedules and/or the opportunity to work part- or full-time from home. This provides many benefits for employees, and employers are often rewarded with increased productivity, improved retention rates and better morale.

However, if an employee is injured while working at home, what does that mean for the employee and employer? Who is considered to be ‘at fault’ and how does the process work if someone needs to file a Workers’ Compensation claim?
Here’s some general information for both parties, as well as a few tips on how to help prevent some potential safety issues in the first place.

Workers’ Compensation Requirements

Employers in Australia are obligated to provide employees with a safe workplace, regardless of where that workplace is. Therefore, if an employee is injured while performing work at home for an employer, he or she should be covered by the company’s workers’ compensation insurance.

In South Australia, ReturnToWorkSA provides work injury insurance for businesses and regulates the South Australian Return to Work scheme. Businesses with insurance – and their workers – are covered for essential support and services, and this coverage helps workers during recovery, continue working (either on-site or at home) or return to work as soon as possible.

Preventing problems before they arise

There are several things employers can do to minimise potential problems with employees working from home:

  • Consider the role your employee has and his or her personality. Is this person a good candidate for working from home? If he or she does work that can be performed online – and that can be easily measured and reviewed – the answer may be yes. However, if he or she has frequent teamwork-related projects or regular in-person contact with customers, it may not be a good arrangement.
  • Before making any agreement to allow an employee to work from home, you should sit down and discuss your company’s workplace health and safety policies. It’s a good idea to have a supervisor or safety officer visit the home to perform an inspection and identify any potential issues. You’ll also want to consider other potential costs to your business, such as:
    • If a desk, ergonomic chair, computer or other equipment is needed
    • If the entry or exit to the home requires changes
    • What will happen if the employee uses his/her car for work and is injured, or if the car is damaged in an accident while the employee is working for you

Communicate! Despite the many options for texting, phoning and emailing, staying in contact with your employees can be more difficult if you don’t see them face-to-face, where you can more easily observe whether they’re feeling overworked or stressed. Check in often and ask how everything is going – and remember that stress can lead to poor mental health, which can also be claimed under Workers’ Compensation.

If you’re unclear about what your Workers’ Compensation policy will cover and what it won’t, contact your insurer directly beforehand.

If you have questions about a potential Workers’ Compensation claim, please contact our experienced legal team to discuss your concerns.