Date Posted

December 22, 2021

-Rob Dombowsky, Industry Advisor, Human Resources & Labour

On Dec 21, the National Post published an article that caught the attention of a lot of employers.  The article found here tells how an Air Canada employee, who fell down her stairs, suffered a workplace injury and merited workers’ compensation. The employee was working her regular schedule from home and disconnected from her computer for lunch, located in her 2nd floor home office.

The ruling was made by a Quebec administrative Judge, and as the case was heard in the Provincial Labour Tribunal, it has no legal ramifications outside Quebec.[1] However, that does not mean that WCB Alberta would not accept a claim based on a similar incident. Taking into consideration the individual circumstances of each claim, WCB-Alberta looks at several factors to determine whether a work from home injury is work-related and therefore covered. Considerations include but are not limited to:

  • Was the activity on work time?
  • Was the activity for the employer’s benefit?
  • Was the worker traveling for work?
  • Was the worker paid for the time?
  • Was the worker in that time and place due to employment reasons?
  • Was the work arrangement authorized by the employer?
  • Did the injury occur in the course of using equipment or materials supplied by the employer?

Covid-19 has driven many employers to offer work-from-home arrangements. In these arrangements, employers have to balance health and safety with the employee’s right to privacy. Working from home poses a range of risks for employers. However, as the worker is at home, the employer can’t easily control the workspace and inspect for hazards.

Fortunately, we can provide employers with guidance for managing to work from home arrangements. A work-from-home arrangement is where workers perform all or parts of their jobs from their home, on a permanent or temporary basis. These arrangements should be documented and agreed to in writing. Employers should also ensure that their work from home policy defines the roles and responsibilities of each party. Furthermore, the policy should set a level of employer control over the workspace. For example, an employee’s workspace should undergo an ergonomic assessment, or the employer could have a policy for monthly video inspections of the workspace.

Workers may be still covered under workers’ compensation if working from home. When coverage is in effect, responsibilities under workers’ compensation legislation (including recording and reporting accidents) still apply, even though the work is performed from the worker’s home.

When work from home is authorized by an employer, as a general rule, coverage is confined to the defined workspace unless the worker is engaged in an activity that is directly related to the work-from-home agreement.

This issue raised in the Air Canada case is the interpretation of what is travel for work purposes. Whether travelling across the room or across the city a few factors need to be considered. Travel at the direction of the employer is covered. This includes situations when a work from home worker travels from their home office to the front door and back for the purpose of work. It may also include travel to an in-person meeting and back home.

In the Air Canada case, travel seems to be an issue. The judge determined the only reason the worker was taking the staircase was to get lunch at the scheduled time, set by Air Canada. That is to say, she was travelling from her office to her personal space for lunch.  As such he ruled the injury occurred during work hours at the workplace. Similar to having an employee fall in the parking lot on the way to their vehicle to take lunch could be deemed as acceptable claims.

Fortunately, WCB Alberta provided several examples of incidents and how they could be treated by WCB. The first example is very similar to the Air Canada case, but the outcome would be very different between to two jurisdictions.

Case Studies

The scenarios below provide a good understanding of how WCB Alberta would deal with work from home injuries and are directly from WCB’s Telecommuting Fact Sheet.[2]

Scenario 1: At noon, Margaret decides to take a lunch break. She leaves her home office in the basement and climbs the stairs to her kitchen. On her way up the stairs, she misses a step, falls and cuts her chin on a step. The cut requires three stitches.

Is Margaret covered? Probably not. Margaret left her designated workspace on personal business and the stairs are not a hazard of employment.

Scenario 2: Margaret is a typist for a municipality. She transcribes transportation planning reports from audiotapes. She works in a spare room in the basement of her home that was designated as her workspace. Her home office has a computer, fax machine and printer supplied by the employer. On her way to the basement office one morning, Margaret slips on some water on her kitchen floor. She falls and hurts her lower back.

Is her injury covered? Unlikely. Margaret was not yet in her designated workspace and the hazard did not relate to her employment.

Scenario 3: Margaret drives to a local office supply store, during working hours, to purchase toner and paper for the printer in her home office. On the way home, she is involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffers a neck injury.

Is Margaret covered? Probably, provided Margaret did not deviate from the route for a personal errand. If she deviated from a direct route to the office supply store, she is not covered until she completes her personal errand and returns to the direct route.

Scenario 4: Margaret receives a box of office supplies delivered to her home. The supplies are paid for by her employer and are necessary for her employment. The box is large and, when carried, prevents her from seeing her feet. As she carries the box down the stairs to her home office, she trips and falls. Her doctor diagnoses a sprained ankle, contusions and a concussion.

Is Margaret covered? Probably. Depending on the facts, the injury may be covered even though it occurred outside the designated workspace. The box is a hazard introduced by her employment and contributed to the accident.

Scenario 5: Margaret has typed transportation planning reports out of her home for three months using her own desk and chair. Her workstation was not ergonomically assessed before beginning the telecommuting arrangement. Lately, she is experiencing pain in her wrists and neck. Her doctor diagnosed a repetitive strain injury in her wrists. Her employer sent an ergonomist out to assess her workstation. The ergonomist determined her chair and desk, which cannot be adjusted, do not suit her body and she needs new office equipment.

Is her injury covered? Probably. Although Margaret provided the desk and chair, the injury is work-related because the desk and chair are required as a condition of her employment at home.


Our Services

AMTA can provide members with one-on-one guidance on the information provided in this article. If you have any questions, please contact AMTA and our experienced staff will be happy to help. For your Safety, Compliance, and Human Resources questions, please email Workplace Support Services at For more information regarding how to manage WCB claims from an employer’s perspective, please contact Rob Dombowsky at AMTA (403) 214-3439.


[1] Air Canada employee who fell on stairs in her home eligible for worker’s compensation: Judge (21 Dec, 2021) National Post


[2] Telecommuting Employer Fact Sheet (3 April 2021) WCB Alberta