New rules on remote work: occupational accidents can also occur at the home workplace

The new working environment rules on the layout of the home workplace recently entered into force. As remote work has become more widespread, it has become particularly important to be aware of when an accident that has occurred in connection with remote work can be an occupational accident.

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New rules on remote work
The new working environment rules for the home workplace have entered into force. The rules have been relaxed for employers, as the requirements for the layout of the home workplace for screen work now only apply when employees regularly work at home more than two days a week on average.

When the condition of regular remote work at a screen more than two days a week is met, it means, among other things, that the employer must ensure that the employee has the necessary furniture and equipment available. As regards the layout of the home workplace, the employer must ensure that the employee has a table and a chair that enable appropriate working positions, and that there is correct lighting and an adjustable screen separate from the keyboard.

A new rule also takes into account employees who work at different workplaces. If, on the whole, an employee works at a screen more than two days a week on average, but does not perform screen work for more than two days at any single workplace, the employee's home workplace must comply with the rules for arranging screen workstations, unless the employer provides a suitable screen workstation at one of the other workplaces.

In connection with the change, the Working Environment Authority (WEA) has published a new guide on remote work and updated its guide on screen work at the same time.

Occupational accidents at the home workplace
When employees work at home, accidents can occur, just like in a normal workplace. If an injury occurs while the employee is at work, there is a presumption that the injury is an occupational injury.

If an injury occurs in connection with remote work, there is not the same presumption that the injury has occurred as a result of the work or working conditions. The boundary between private and work life is more fluid when the work is performed from home, which is why it can be more difficult to determine whether there has been an occupational accident that would be covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.

On the basis of four fundamental decisions, the Social Appeals Board has issued a statement of principles establishing how far the employer's liability extends in connection with injuries incurred during or in connection with remote work.

According to the Social Appeals Board, a specific assessment of the incident must be made, where the starting point is whether the injured employee's actions at the time of the injury had a necessary or natural connection to the work, and where the burden is on the injured party to prove a causal connection between the accident and the work.

The four decisions are described below.

In the first case, an employee sustained an injury when they fell during a walk during the working day. In the second case, an employee, immediately after a virtual meeting, had gone out into their yard to “think”. On the way back in to call a colleague, the employee fell and sustained an injury. In both cases, the Social Appeals Board ruled that the injured parties were not covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act, as the activity in question did not have a necessary or natural connection to the work.

The third case concerned an employee who, in connection with a toilet visit during a day of working from home, fell up two steps and sustained an injury. The Social Appeals Board found that the employee's activities had the necessary connection to the work, as no private circumstances had been described in the case that justified the toilet visit. As a result, it was an occupational injury covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Similarly, in the fourth case, an employee had set up a home office in their basement while toilet and kitchen facilities were on the ground floor. The employee suffered an injury by falling on the stairs in connection with a toilet visit and picking up supplies in the kitchen, which was also considered an occupational injury.

Norrbom Vinding notes

  • that employers must be aware that regular overtime, weekend work and working days of varying length can have an effect on whether an employee is considered to work from home more than two days a week on average and, therefore, whether the requirements for screen work in home workplaces apply; and
  • that the Social Appeals Board's statement of principles establishes that when an employee is injured in connection with work from home, the presumption that the injury is due to work, which generally applies when an employee is injured at the workplace, does not apply. A home-working employee who is injured must therefore prove a causal connection between the accident and the work if the injury is to be recognised as an occupational injury covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The content of the above is not, and should not be a substitute for legal advice.

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