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Can I receive workers’ compensation if I am injured while working from home?


In a recent case out of Quebec, Air Canada et Gentile-Patti, a customer service agent who was working from home fell down the stairs on her way to lunch. The question arose, could she be compensated under Quebec’s workers’ compensation regime? Was this a workplace injury even though it took place at home? With the rise of remote work or hybrid work, these types of questions have become all the more common.

The Quebec tribunal ultimately concluded that the injury was compensable as a workplace injury because it occurred in connection to a work break under an employer-imposed schedule.

What about in Ontario? Here, too, injuries sustained while working from home are eligible for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage so long as they are sufficiently work-related, which will depend on the facts of the specific case.

Was the injury work-related?

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) provides coverage for injuries from accidents “arising out of and in the course of employment,” which is a context-specific question. When evaluating if a particular accident was work-related, the WSIB will consider where the accident occurred (place), when it occurred (time), and what the worker was doing at the time (activity).

There is no separate WSIB policy for injuries that occur while working from home. Rather, the WSIB has confirmed that such claims will be decided under the same framework as other injuries, as was the case even before the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, remote work existed before March 2020.

Decision No. 2352/05 provides a good illustration of the WSIB’s framework on remote work. In that case, the worker developed a neck strain injury from typing reports in her home office on a weekend. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) concluded the injury was work-related in part because the worker did not have a fixed work pattern and was never told that she could not work on weekends.

The Tribunal has also emphasized the relevance of the activity at issue when assessing these kinds of claims:

…Obviously, a home-worker who slips and falls in the kitchen while cooking supper, or who falls out of bed while sleeping, or who is injured while taking out garbage or while shovelling the snow, is outside the employment nexus. A home worker who falls off an office chair while performing a job-related activity, is within the employment nexus. A home worker engaged in a job-related activity, who takes a bathroom break and is injured in the course of the bathroom break, is engaged in an activity incidental to employment and is within the employment nexus. (Decision No. 2010/09)

By way of another example, in Decision No. 1223/19, the WSIAT granted benefits to an individual who developed carpal tunnel syndrome while working from home. The Tribunal applied the same test for injuries sustained on an employer’s premises, finding the claim had the necessary five elements to be eligible: an employer, a worker, a personal work-related injury, proof of the accident, and a diagnosis compatible with the accident history.

What if work-related activities are not the sole cause of the injury?

It is not necessary to show that a work activity is the sole cause of an injury for it to be compensable under the WSIA, but it does need to be a “significant contributing factor.” In Decision No. 1313/19, a worker who worked from home was entitled to compensation for injuries related to computer use. The employer argued that the worker’s shoulder tendonitis was caused by a pre-existing issue, and not the worker’s job duties. The WSIAT rejected this argument, finding that she was entitled to compensation for her shoulder tendinosis because the injury resulted, to a significant degree, from her repetitive job duties.

These cases are ultimately context specific, and it can be difficult to determine whether or not a given injury is sufficiently work related to attract compensation under Ontario’s workers’ compensation regime. If you are not sure if you are covered by WSIB or if think you have an eligible WSIB claim, we would invite you to consult one of our lawyers.

* This post was co-authored by Erin Sobat, one of our 2021-2022 articling students.