The COVID‑19 pandemic has made remote work the “new normal”. The increase of remote work in British Columbia and worldwide has led to many important discussions regarding the rights of remote workers and employers’ corresponding obligations. An important question that has come up concerning remote work, is regarding employers’ liability for employees’ work injuries while they perform their work duties remotely.
Depending on the particular nature of the circumstances, employers could be held liable for employees’ workplace injuries while they perform their duties remotely. This is because employers’ duty to maintain a safe working environment does not cease to exist in the age of remote work. Examples of remote work injuries include:
- Injuries that are clearly associated with repetitive movements (e.g., strain injuries from sitting at a desk and working on a computer)
- Falls during work hours (e.g., falling down the stairs)
- Injuries that are related to workplace expectations that are out of line with workplace safety best practices (e.g., excessive working hours)
Across Canada, occupational health and safety legislation seeks to prevent workplace injuries, including ones that occur during remote work. This legislation varies from province to province, but in essence, it aims to protect employees and ensure that employers take responsibility for maintaining a safe work environment. When it comes to remote work, employers can find themselves in a challenging circumstance as they do not have the same level of control over the employees’ work environment. Employers would benefit from taking steps to prevent remote work injuries, by actively educating employees to know risks and how to avoid them, and by implementing a work from-home policy that requires employees to assess their workplace and report any hazards.
Employers and employees who find themselves embroiled in a workplace injury claim, or who are looking for legal advice to prevent such claims, could benefit from contacting a British Columbia employment lawyer.