COVID-19 has made teleworking the new normal for many.
For the foreseeable future, remote working and work from home is here to stay. Working from home, for example, has changed our understanding of what constitutes a “workplace”. As a result, we have had to recalibrate our view of issues such as “workplace injuries”.
In a recent case Air Canada and Gentile-Patti, an Air Canada employee fell down the stairs in her home while heading to her lunch break and injured herself. The central question of the case was whether the event was a “workplace” injury, given that it occurred in the employee’s home. The judge ruled the employee did in fact suffer a “workplace injury”, and was eligible for worker’s compensation.
While the above is a Quebec case, similar questions are bound to emerge in Ontario as well. Current legislation does not provide clear guidelines on the scope of employees’ and employers’ responsibilities regarding workplace safety while working from home. What we do know is that for an employee to be compensated for a workplace injury, the incident must occur on the employer’s premises. What constitutes an “employer’s premises” is broad in scope and contextual. Moreover, whether an event will be considered a workplace injury depends on whether an employee was performing an act that was directly or incidentally related to their employment obligations.
Since workplace health and safety laws about telework remain underdeveloped, employers will benefit from creating a workplace policy to ensure that their employees remain safe while working from home, and to reduce their liability. These types of policies policy can address a variety of issues, from workspace arrangements and work schedules, to injury and accident reporting, risk assessments, and employee check-ins.