ABC presenter loses work compensation claim

A recent court ruling has put the spotlight on injury claims arising when employees work from home

ABC presenter loses work compensation claim
Maryann Demasi, host of ABC television program Catalyst, has lost a claim for workers’ compensation after breaking her hip two years ago while going for a morning run.
The case sheds light upon whether government employees are entitled to compensation if injured while working at home – especially if the injury happens to occur outside of the home environment.
Demasi suffered the injury during a morning jog on January 2014. She claimed she should receive compensation from federal workplace insurer Comcare as she was working from home at the time.
After examining the evidence, deputy president Stephen Frost of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal rejected Demasi’s claims.
The final judgment hinged on Section 6(1)(b) of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 which stated that an injury sustained in the course of employment may be seen as occurring during work if:
  • The employee was at their ‘place of work’ or,
  • Was temporarily absent during an ‘ordinary recess’
Frost acknowledged that Demasi’s home was a ‘place of work’ due to the prior arrangement she had made with her employer
“The simple fact is that the employer and employee had an arrangement in place that was well understood by both of them, even if it was not strictly in compliance with the formal requirements. Ms Demasi had told her manager that she would be working from home that day. Her manager was not troubled by that arrangement.”
However, Frost ultimately rejected the compensation claim, saying that Demasi was not on an ‘ordinary recess’ during her morning jog. He was careful to point out though that taking a run during a lunch break could still be seen as occurring during these ‘ordinary recess’ periods.
“I would have thought it is beyond argument that going for a run during one’s lunch break is doing something ‘during an ordinary recess’ in one’s employment. But taking a break for the specific purpose of going for a run, at any random time of the day, is in a different category.”
Therefore, a run at 9.30am in the morning was to be treated differently as one taken at lunchtime, he said, as the latter was undertaken during an ‘ordinary recess’ while exercise done on an ad hoc basis was not.
“I conclude that Ms Demasi’s injury was not sustained during an ordinary recess in her employment.”
Related stories:
Threat of Canberra relocation sees worker awarded compensation
FWC orders compensation for “huddle”-avoiding employee
Running for the phone at home considered a "work-related" accident

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