Employee workplace injuries are common and it is often the employer that must take responsibility. But what about if an employee is injured on their journey to or from work?

In Australia, all state and territory workers’ compensation schemes provide coverage for employee trips if they are travelling for work purposes, though only some provide coverage for journeys to and from the workplace. This means that in most cases you are not liable for an employee’s journeys to and from work, but there are differences across the states, as set out below.

It is important to note that when we talk about ‘employer liability’ in this article, we are really referring to liability through third-party worker compensation insurance.

States Where You are Not Liable for Work Journeys

In Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria an employer is generally not liable if an employee is injured on the way to work. In Victoria, workers who are injured on this journey are able to apply for compensation under a separate transport accident compensation scheme.

In NSW, the situation is a little more complicated. There is no compensation payable on a journey to or from work unless there is a “real and substantial connection between the employment and accident or incident out of which the personal injury arose”.

Basically, this means employers will not be liable for when an employee is injured on the way to work, unless the employee was:

  • directed to pick-up work mail on the way to work;
  • directed to travel to a training course at a location other than their normal place of work;
  • travelling directly to meet a client, rather than going to the office first; or
  • involved in an accident due to fatigue when travelling home after a double shift.

States and Territories Where You May be Liable for Work Trips

In the Northern Territory and the ACT, employers generally are liable for trips to and from work. However, when a worker is in their car and still on their own property they cease to be covered by the scheme.

Liability for such journeys also applies in Queensland. There are, however, a number of exemptions.  For example, a worker will not receive any workers compensation for injuries if they break road or criminal laws when the accident happened and this contravention led to the accident. Also, if the injury occurs too long before the employees’ work journey (and the employee was driving in the car at the time) or in a substantial geographical deviation from the journey, then an employer will not be liable.

Journey for ‘Work Purposes’

You should also be aware that if a worker injures themselves on an authorised journey for work purposes you may be liable. In most states and territories, the relevant legislation is very broad and can include injuries incurred on journeys during lunch breaks or other breaks. You may even be liable if a worker is injured while getting a work certificate or training at an external training provider.

Key Takeaways

In virtually all Australian states, an employer is not liable if an employee is injured on the way to work if it is the result of the serious and willful misconduct of the worker. In some states, such as Queensland, an employer may be liable for injuries sustained on the way to work if the employee was acting legally. In other states, such as South Australia, employers may not be liable.

For expert legal advice on how to proceed in the event that an employee tries to sue you for compensation, call LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Lachlan McKnight
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