Workplace Health and Safety laws state that employers have a duty of care to ensure their workers’ health and safety, even during working from home arrangements.
Also called telecommuting, e-work or telework, a work from home arrangement involves undertaking suitable work from your home as part of your usual work requirements.
Today where it's becoming more common with thanks to modern technology and COVID-19 restrictions, is there anything different to an employer’s or a worker’s obligations? And if you’re injured while working at home, are you still covered by workers’ compensation?
Tips to work safely from home
Some of the biggest injury risks could arise if your employer hasn’t provided you with the correct equipment or support network. Your mental health can also suffer, being isolated from colleagues, changes to work demands, not having clear boundaries between home-life and work life.
Here are some tips we’ve put together to ensuring a safe as possible workstation at home:
- Follow procedures about how your work is performed. Your employer should give you a working from home policy that outlines how the arrangement will work, your duties and how to report potential risks.
- Maintain regular communication with your co-workers. It can also be a big change in routine and not having your colleagues or regular support network around you can be tough.
- Make sure you’re still taking your workplace entitlements like lunch breaks and logging off at the end of the day to keep clear boundaries between your work-life and home-life.
- Ensure you have a safe workstation. Both you and your employer are responsible for this, particularly to reduce potential musculoskeletal injuries. According to the latest data available from SafeWork Australia, musculoskeletal injuries accounted for about 90 per cent of serious workers’ compensation claims in 2018-19 period. WorkSafe Queensland have created a guide to setting up computer workstations to suit your needs.
- Stay informed regarding COVID-19 updates. If the ongoing pandemic is the main reason your work arrangements have changed, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest health information.
- Manage your own in-house safety, including maintaining electrical equipment and installing and maintaining smoke alarms.
Does WorkCover cover me while working from home?
If somehow an injury still occurs, you may be covered if you are working from home, if the injury is caused by or occurs during your employment and your employment is a major factor in causing the injury.
This may cover a wide variety of circumstances, including if you were on a recess break. For this reason, it’s a good idea for you and our employer to agree on the hours you will work, and the number and frequency of recess breaks you will take and put this in writing.
When working from home, the usual workers’ compensation provisions about travelling between home and work don’t apply. But if you are injured while travelling away from your home for the purposes of work, you may still be able to make a claim.
It is important to note that this information does not relate to contractors or freelancers, and those in such occupations need to take out their own insurance policies like TPD Insurance, Income Protection or Public Liability Insurance.
What do I do if I am injured while working from home?
If you’re required to work from home, and you injure yourself during the course of work, or because of your work tasks, notify your employer immediately.
Employers should have their own processes in place, and most require you to fill out an injury report. If the injury is severe enough that you can’t work for a period of time, start a WorkCover claim. You don’t need to wait for your employer to do this.
And remember, making a WorkCover claim isn’t asking your employer to pay out of their pocket – that’s what their workers’ compensation insurance like WorkCover is for. Read more things you should know about WorkCover here.
What do I do if I contracted COVID-19 while working from home?
This will depend on what protocols your employer has put into place, so it will be best to talk with them about what steps you should take.
However, according to SafeWork Australia, if you have no or minor symptoms, it is possible that you could potentially continue to work and not need to make leave arrangements.
There is still an ongoing discussion around whether COVID-19 should be considered an “injury” and covered by workers’ compensation schemes, like WorkCover, if you contracted it because of work. If this applies to you, we recommend you obtain some further advice about making a claim.