Injuries suffered while working are generally considered workplace accidents. Like many people, you may be working from home due to COVID-19. What happens if you’re injured or get sick while working from home?
Are you an employee working from home?
In order to be “working from home”, you must meet three requirements:
- You are an employee (this does not include self-employed workers).
- You are using technology to do your work.
- You are not working at your normal workplace.
You can be working either part-time or full-time.
To learn more, please see our article “Twelve Questions About Working From Home”.
Can you be compensated?
The rules for working remotely are more or less the same as those for working in the office, with certain modifications. Remote workers are protected just like other employees. To be compensated for a workplace injury, you must meet three requirements :
- You must be an employee (this does not include self-employed workers).
- You must have an accident (an event that is sudden and unexpected).
- The accident must happen while you’re working.
The courts have said that “workplace accident” can mean many different things. For example, a worker was injured while taking documents from a car while working from home. This was considered a workplace accident.
You can also be compensated if you are an employee, and you develop an “occupational disease”. An occupational disease is an illness caused by your work. This could be due to your tasks or your work environment. In addition, an occupational disease must be:
- Directly related to the risks of your work, or
- Be specific to your type of work. This means that other workers in your field have also suffered from the same illness.
For example, in 2019 the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT or administrative labour tribunal) decided that epicondylitis of the elbow (tennis elbow) was an occupational disease. The worker in that case developed tennis elbow from working on a computer. She made repetitive movements using a keyboard and mouse over a long period of time.
To learn more, please see our article “Workplace Accidents: Step to Take, Remedies and Compensation”.
What precautions should you take?
You and your employer must both take steps to protect your health and safety. You should make sure that your work environment is safe.
This means that if your employer has created a prevention program, you must follow it. For example, this could mean directions to use certain equipment or to follow ergonomic guidelines at your desk.
If your employer has a policy that bans the use of drugs or alcohol on company property or during work hours, you must also follow this at home.
Make sure that your work environment follows health and safety regulations. If it doesn’t, speak to your employer to find a solution. An inspector from the Commission des normes de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST or labour standards board) can inspect workplaces even if they are outside of the employer’s property. However, the courts have not yet decided whether they can conduct an inspection in your work if you are working remotely.
Your employer can also ask you to take a photo to make sure your work environment is safe. If they feel that it is not safe, they can ask you to work from their offices.
Some of the rules discussed in this article only apply to employees covered by the Act Respecting Labour Standards.
To learn more, please see our article on “Workplace Laws”.