Key-Worx

The new normal and the definition of the “workplace”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to reinvent the way they carry out their activities. Many employees are working from home, either full time or on a rotational basis. The use of technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have made the traditional commute to a central office less common.

People are setting up home offices, investing in bandwidth and computer equipment in order to enable remote working. This raises an interesting question. The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines a workplace as any place where work is carried out during a persons’ employment.

By definition, therefore, your home office is a workplace and as such falls under the requirements of the relevant safety legislation. This would obviously include the OHASA, but also the Compensation for occupational injuries and diseases Act and various regulations. If, for instance, we look at Section 8 of the Act, an employer is required to provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practical, an environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees. Does this then require home office inspections? Perhaps provision of safety equipment?

Similarly, what if an employee gets hurt whilst working from home, is this a work-related injury? Is a compensation claim in order? If so, who determines if the injury arose in the course of employment.
I am sure that there are many divergent views on these kinds of questions, and equally sure that complications will arise out of them.

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