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Workers compensation for on call workers

Injuries suffered while a worker is on call – are they covered by workers compensation in

Recent case law in Tasmania has addressed the question of whether an injury suffered while a worker is ‘on call’ are considered to have arisen out of or in the course of their employment.

In Nazar v Hydro Electric Corporation [2022] TASFC 11 the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Tasmania held that a worker who fell and suffered and injury when walking their dog while they were on call had suffered a compensable injury. The reasoning was that, notwithstanding the fact he was walking his dog, the worker was performing duties that were imposed by his contract of employment because he was required to be within a certain area, available to be called out, ready to respond within 15 minutes, in a fit state to respond to a call, and being paid for his time on ‘Availability Duty’.

More recently, in Tasmanian Water and Sewerage Corporation Pty Ltd v P. [2023] TASCAT 239 the decision in Nazar was applied in a case where a worker had suffered injuries in a car accident while he was on call. At the time of the accident the worker had not been called out and was driving a work vehicle for non-work purposes. In short, despite those facts the Deputy President’s primary conclusion was that, like in Nazar, the worker’s injuries were compensable because the worker was complying with his contractual obligations to be available for contact over the phone and to attend sites during the time he was rostered to be on call, and was being paid a supervisor’s duty allowance, which he received regardless of whether he was called out to a worksite or not.

In light of those two decisions, it is likely that in Tasmania injuries suffered by worker’s who are on call will generally be considered to be compensable under the Act (with a potential exception for cases where a worker is undertaking an activity that is clearly inconsistent with their contractual obligations).

It should be noted that the position is likely to be different for claims in respect of a workers compensation claim that is made for a disease or under the extend definition of injury, because the of the different causation test that applies (i.e. employment must be the major or most significant contributing factor for those categories).