Flight attendant claims compensation for injuries on day off

In a recent case before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) a flight attendant successfully claimed workers’ compensation for injuries sustained during a motorcycle accident on a day off. It raises some interesting questions about the limits of “in the course of employment.”

First, some background: where necessary, Qantas employees are responsible for maintaining current visas for travel to the US. Employees are expected to arrange visa renewals in their own time, but the company may assist with reminders that the current visa is about to expire and subsidised flights to visit the US consulate as required.

In this case, the employee lived on the Gold Coast and had to fly from Brisbane to the US consulate in Sydney. In instances like this, Qantas pays employees for six hours in recognition of the effort. To ensure he made his early flight to Sydney, the employee had arranged to stay at a friend’s house in Brisbane the evening before the flight. The accident occurred as the employee rode his motorcycle to his friend’s house. The employee sustained a dislocated hip, fractured pelvis and femur and a broken wrist.

What makes this case interesting is that the employee was not technically working or on his way to or from work. Still, the QIRC president found that, because the visa was being obtained for work, the injuries were sustained in the course of his employment and that his employment was a significant contributing factor to his injuries. In short, “but for” his employment, the employee would not have been injured.

The lesson here is that employment can extend well beyond the regular nine to five. Activities related to work that take place outside of the standard working day may still be deemed to be “in the course of employment.” And in instances of injuries and workers’ compensation, it’s important to know employers’ rights and responsibilities. Organisations should consider what steps they can take to better manage workers’ safety where work-related activities are required to take place outside standard business hours.