5 January 2020 posted by Recovery Partners

While most injuries happen on the job, sometimes employees can sustain injuries on their journeys to or from the workplace.

A common question that we get asked is: ‘can an employee claim compensation if they are injured on their journey to or from work?’

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In Australia, most workers are only eligible for journey claims if the injury is deemed to arise out of employment,during a work trip or whilst on an approved break. Still, there are a number of states and territories that provide coverage and compensation for injuries that occur between an employee’s home and place of work.

In New South Wales (NSW), Northern Territory (NT), Australia Capital Territory (ACT) and Queensland (QLD), employees can lodge a statutory claim when injured travelling directly to and from work. However, in NSW the process is not usually that straightforward. Workers in NSW can only succeed in getting compensation if they can establish ”a real and substantial connection between the employment and the incident out which the injury arose”.

Late last year, the NSW Workers Compensation Commission awarded a Woolworths’ employee $17,000 after she sustained an eye injury from a bird attack on her way to work. The incident happened on 14 May 2017 as the worker made her way from the parking lot after arriving at Kiama Shopping Centre, where her place of employment is located. She was about to enter the premises when she attacked by a native pee-wee leaving her in need of surgery.

Woolworths rejected the claim and unsuccessfully argued, before the commission, that the eye injuries the employee sustained in the car park incident are non-compensable journey injuries. The company claimed that when the employee was injured, she hadn’t crossed the boundary into their premises because her workplace was within the structure of the shopping centre.

Woolworths further argued that the bird attack was a random event and there was no “real and substantial connection” the journey incident and her employment. However, Workers Compensation Commission Arbitrator John Harris was quick to dismiss the company’s claims, stating that the passage from the parking area to the Woolworths store was necessarily incidental to the employment contract.  

Mr Harris noted that the worker was “in the course of her employment” when the injury occurred and therefore qualified for workers compensation. “It is extremely unlikely that … would have been attacked by the Pee-Wee at that time, had she not been in the course of her employment,” he said.

The localised differences in workers claims and compensation

Today, journey claims and compensations are only covered in some jurisdictions. On the other hand, travel that is work-related is covered by all worker’s claims and compensation schemes but the procedures and restrictions can be unique in each state and territory.

Due to the localised differences in journey claims, employers and workers should ensure that they have an adequate understanding of the legislation in their jurisdictions. Empowering yourself with useful information can help you take precautionary measures and minimise potential liabilities.

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If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact us here or on 1300 OHS RTW.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au