Do you allow employees to work from home?

Most employers these days make provision for certain types of employees to occasionally work from home. There is usually a policy, procedure and supporting checklists developed and implemented in proper contemplation of the fact that where the person works from home does constitute a “place of work” thereby creating both a potential OHS and workers compensation liability for the employer. So far, so good. But (there always is one) – a recent decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal should encourage you to at least revisit the practice, as this precedent leaves you very vulnerable to a claim that could amount to millions of dollars.


The case involved a Telstra employee who slipped down the stairs in her own townhouse twice in two months while working on marketing campaigns. Telstra denied liability because the falls occurred outside her designated workstation but, the Tribunal disagreed and found her shoulder injuries were work-related and ordered the company to pay medical and legal costs and compensation for lost income. This could amount to millions of dollars if she is unable to work again.


The first fall occurred when she tripped whilst getting cough medicine from the fridge (while wearing socks). The second fall occurred on route to locking the front door, (a safety and security practice recommended by Telstra’s following a break-in at her home).


The tribunal found both falls arose out of her employment with Telstra which made them workplace injuries.


The implications of this decision are fairly obvious. Employers need to revisit their policies and procedures, upgrade them where necessary and ensure that the current regime is being complied with.


Unfortunately, such a decision may discourage employers from allowing this flexible work practice or narrowing the circumstances in which it is permitted.


[Source: The Brief Group Newsletter, June/July 2011]