A matter recently determined by the Workers Compensation Commission required ruling a fine line between ‘on a journey’ and ‘in the course of employment’.
For most workers in NSW the workers compensation entitlements for journeys between their home and place of employment were abolished by amendments in June 2012, unless the injury resulted from a “real and substantial connection” with the work. In Courtney Ryan v Regional Imaging the commission was called upon to determine a claim for injury in these circumstances.
Ms Ryan, who worked as a receptionist, finished her work day at 3:30pm, but was permitted by the employer to leave 15 minutes earlier to drive to the Post Office to deliver the companu's mail.
On that fateful day she parked her car about a block away from the Post Office, delivered the mail there, and then whilst walking directly back to her car she stepped out between two parked vans to cross the road and was struck by another motor vehicle, suffering fractures to her right arm and left leg.
The insurer denied liability in accordance with Section 10 of the Workers Compensation Act on the basis that the injury was sustained in the course of a journey from her work to her home, and that there was no real or substantial connection between her employment and the accident.
Various arguments were pursued by the parties at arbitration. The worker argued that she would not have been at that location but for work. The insurer argues that she was on a journey home once she left work, and the injury occurred after her working hours, at 3:40pm.
The arbitrator eventually determined that Ms Ryan did not qualify for compensation for her injuries as, once she had delivered the mail to the Post Office, she ceased to be in employment and was in the course of a "journey" from that point onward. The time of the injury was found to be irrelevant.
Had Ms Ryan suffered the injury while walking to the Post Office to deliver the mail she would have been covered. Similarly, if she was going back to work after delivering the mail, as both instances would be ‘in the course of employment’. The ‘but for’ argument from Ms Ryan did not succeed in creating a substantial connection between the accident and her employment.
It is our opinion that workers should ensure they are aware of factors such as this if they accept tasks to be undertaken on behalf of their employer while travelling to or from work.