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Occupational injuries and telework, what the case law says

In two decisions rendered at the end of 2021 by the Administrative Labour Tribunal, the Court confirmed that accidents suffered by workers are acceptable, even if they occurred before the legislator specifically included the concept of telework in the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases.

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 Occupational injuries and telework, what the case law says

What the case law says?

With teleworking taking the job market by storm in Quebec, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, we can wonder what happens to injuries that occur in an employee’s home.

In two decisions rendered at the end of 2021 by the Administrative Labour Tribunal, the Court confirmed that accidents suffered by workers are acceptable, even if they occurred before the legislator specifically included the concept of telework in the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases.

In these two cases, these were accidents that occurred during work, while the workers fell down the stairs of their home while leaving for their break.

In the decision in Laverdière and Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (Regional Operations), the court stated that:  

“Certainly, labour laws have been thought out, drafted and adopted with the understanding that the workplace is within the employer’s establishment. However, the arrival of the pandemic has required ensuring compliance with health rules and making workplaces safe. When the Government put Quebec on pause, the instruction addressed to employers was to encourage telework and to accept, at the same time, that the control it traditionally exercises be reviewed. As the accident occurred a few days after the introduction of mandatory telework, the employer had obviously not provided for a framework policy on the procedures to be followed by public service personnel. Thus, only the possible development of policies, in a world in which telework is called upon to rub shoulders with the traditional way of carrying out work, is likely to predict the conditions under which remote work must be carried out. Consequently, the arrangements concerning the places to take breaks and the times from which the worker could take them, within the daily working hours, were in no way the subject of specific guidelines.

The use of the access road allowing him to leave the employer’s establishment is reasonable and it is therefore justified to consider a link of connection with the work. This approach must be transposed to the new workplace of the worker, since the pandemic.”

Then, in Air Canada and Gentile-Patti, the court stated:

“Certainly, when a worker works from home, in telework mode, the transition from the professional sphere to the personal sphere and vice versa can be more frequent during a shift, as the Air Canada prosecutor points out. Nevertheless, a worker who carries on his employment in telework mode, at home, must benefit from the same protection of the Act with respect to the concept of in connection with work as a worker who carries out his work in the employer’s establishment. In fact, the Act makes no distinction, condition or requirement as to the place where the unforeseen or sudden event occurs in order to be granted the benefits of the Act, except for its territorial scope under sections 7 to 8.1 of the Act.”

These decisions therefore confirm that the teleworking worker’s home is therefore assimilated to his place of work in the same way as if he came to work in his employer’s facilities.

Obviously, the prevention of accidents raises questions here given the inviolability of the home guaranteed by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedom. It will therefore be very difficult to deal with prevention as we would do in the factory, for example.

Nevertheless, you can put some measures in place:

  • Ensure that the prevention program also covers workers’ homes
  • Train employees on ergonomic (or other) risks of their work
  • Assist employees if the workstation layout needs to be reviewed
  • Rigorously investigate any workplace accident

The future will tell us whether a transfer of imputation under section 326 of the ATIA will be possible for accidents occurring in the workers’ homes, given the impossibility for the employer to act as much as he wishes. It is therefore to be followed on this side…

We remind you that our team is available to assist you in the management of your workplace accident files.

Talk to one of our advisors!

Sources: 2021 QCTAT 5644 and 2021 QCTAT 5829

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