In this Alert, Associate Claire Bruggemann discusses the case of Catherine Mary Hopkins v Department of Education & Communities and the determination by the NSW Workers’ Compensation Commission that the claimant’s injuries, sustained at her residence, arose out of her employment.
The claimant was employed as a teacher with Cessnock High School. On 14 June 2007 she left school at approximately 3.45pm and arrived home at 5.30pm. She took books inside her home for marking, using a cane basket to carry them. Whilst descending the steps of her residence to retrieve more books, she slipped and fell sustaining a right ankle pylon fracture.
Issue to be determined
The NSW Workers Compensation Commission was required to determine whether the claimant sustained an injury arising out of or in the course of her employment (section 4 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (the Act)) and whether her employment was a substantial contributing factor to her injury (section 9A of the Act).
Injury arising out of or in the course of employment
The claimant submitted that the school’s classrooms closed at 5pm on a daily basis and that teachers could only work back past 5pm through special arrangements with the Principal.
She also submitted that she took work home on a daily basis including work such as marking student work books and assignments, preparation of lessons and teaching programs and preparing reports.
The Commission accepted that it was part and parcel of the claimant’s employment that she comply “with requirements not only of face-to-face teaching hours, but also lesson preparation, marking, and evaluation of students, to name but a few of the ancillary tasks performed by teachers”. This indicated an implied inducement to perform tasks outside of the contractual hours of employment.
This inducement was further reinforced by the fact that the school closed at 5pm daily which allowed teachers only one and a half hours in the staffroom after the finish of the school day to perform all ancillary tasks.
The Commission found that it was a necessary consequence of the implied inducement that the claimant was required to transfer work from her vehicle to her home.
Accordingly, it was held that her injury arose out of or in the course of her employment.
Substantial contributing factor
The Commission noted that the claimant was obtaining items from her vehicle when she was injured and because the claimant brought these items home for the purposes of marking, they were related to her employment.
The Commission was satisfied that the claimant’s employment was a contributing factor which was real and of substance to the injury.
Employers may be found to have impliedly induced employees to work outside of the contractual hours of their employment if they are not provided with sufficient time to complete all aspects of their employment at the employer’s premises. In such circumstances, employees may be able to successfully claim statutory compensation for injuries sustained at home whilst engaged in activities related to their employment.