We have teachers who are required to attend an after-school function on a Friday night until 11pm as part of their work duties. One staff member who plans to walk and use public transport to get home has expressed concern for her safety.
I have two questions:
1. Is travel to and from the venue covered by workers’ compensation in this situation?
2. Do we have a legal obligation to provide a safe mode of transport home from a work-related function?
In response to your two questions:
1. Given that it is a work event, claims can be lodged for workers’ compensation if a worker is injured while travelling to the function from the school, but not necessarily if they are injured while travelling home.
The legislation and commentary indicates that if a worker chooses not to use transport you provide and continues on to a private function where an incident occurs, you may be protected from a claim if you or your insurer could demonstrate that by refusing the provision of transport, there was a ‘break’ in the course of employment.
2. Employers should always assess the hazards and risks of any proposed work function or event, and this would cover the need to provide a safe mode of transport for workers, particularly in your situation where the event is scheduled to conclude at 11pm.
Ensuring that workers have safe transport available to and from a work-related function can help to minimise the risk of an incident occurring before or after the event, particularly if alcohol will be consumed. One solution may be to subsidise the cost of a taxi home for all of your workers.
We also recommend that you review chapter M2 Managing Work-Related Functions.