Whether the claimant was injured during the course of her employment and therefore entitled to recover damages from her workers’ compensation insurer.
Ms Maryanne Demasi (Ms Demasi) was employed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) as a producer and presenter for the television program, Catalyst.
In early 2014, Ms Demasi was working from home when she decided to take a break and go for a run. During her run, she tripped on an uneven surface and landed awkwardly, fracturing her right hip. Ms Demasi claimed compensation from Comcare as the relevant workers’ compensation insurer. Comcare denied coverage on the basis that Ms Demasi’s injury did not arise out of or in the course of her employment. Ms Demasi sought a review of that decision from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
The Decision at Trial
The critical issue for determination by the AAT was whether Ms Demasi’s injury had arisen out of or in the course of employment, as required by section 6 of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (the Act).
Section 6 of the Act defines an injury arising out of or in the course of employment. It provides that an injury does arise out of or in the course of employment if it is sustained while at the employee’s place of work for the purposes of employment, or while temporarily absent from that place during an ordinary recess in the employment.
The parties agreed that on the day of the incident Ms Demasi was working from home (an accepted practice for ABC employees). However, Comcare argued that Ms Demasi’s home could not be considered her ‘place of work’ for the purposes of section 6(1)(b) of the Act.
Upon consideration of Ms Demasi’s work arrangements, the AAT resolved that on the day of her injury, Ms Demasi’s home was in fact her ‘place of work’.
The next issue for determination was whether Ms Demasi was absent from her place of work during an ‘ordinary recess’ at the time of suffering her injury.
The AAT determined that although going for a run during one’s lunchbreak would constitute doing something ‘during an ordinary recess’, taking a break for the specific purpose of going for a run, at any random time of the day, was in an entirely different category. On that basis, it was concluded that Ms Demasi’s injury was not sustained during an ordinary recess in her employment and therefore, Comcare was entitled to deny cover.
Implications for you
This decision turns on its own facts and is specific to the Commonwealth legislation. However, as flexible work arrangements become more common place, the issues considered by the AAT will likely be dealt with more often as the definition of ‘workplace’ in each State’s workers’ compensation legislation is refined.