Working from home or remote working is rapidly gaining in popularity. As well as many employers and employees, the Roads and Traffic Agency and Minister Kris Peeters are clearly fans of this phenomenon. At the beginning of this year, they even announced a "work from home alert" where employees were encouraged to work from home during severe weather. A smart idea? Or does working from home actually have some downsides, such as, for example, in the event of a work-related accident? We spell out the impact of working from home on your cover for work-related accidents.
In many companies, remote working, commonly referred to as “working from home”, is becoming more and more normal. This means that there are employees who frequently work away from the company’s location for one or more days each week , for example, in their own homes, or at some other place of their choice, such as a coworking space. In the latter case, “working from home” therefore does not cover the full range, so it is better to use the term “remote working”.
There are different forms of working from home:
- There is structural working from home, where it is organised on a regular basis, so is not just ad hoc. Structural working from home is regulated by a collective labour agreement (CLA no. 85 and 85a). An explicit reference to working from home is required in the employment contracts of the employees concerned, stating the day, location and duration of this work.
- With ad hoc working at home, the employer allows their employees to work from home occasionally. Until recently, this was done without any legal framework. Since the introduction on 1 February 2017 of the new law on Manageable and Flexible Working by Minister Peeters, employees have had an actual right to work from home in case of force majeure (e.g. extreme winter weather) and for urgent personal reasons (such as a doctor’s appointment), provided this is approved in advance by the employer. Although the law provides for working from home, currently it is still the employer who decides case by case whether to allow employees to work from home.
- In practice, we note that there are still different agreements about working from home in very many companies than those described in the law. In most cases, these are agreements that employees and their direct managers have agreed among themselves, for example, one fixed day per week for working from home, or working from home before or after calling on a customer close to their home.
Every employee is automatically insured for work-related accidents through the mandatory accident-at-work insurance. This means that accidents that affect employees during and because of their performance of work under their employment contract are covered. When any work-related accident takes place, the victim or beneficiary(-ies) themselves must prove that the accident took place while their employment contract was being performed. It is usually very easy to prove this if the accident took place at their usual place of work. In practice, this means that insurers generally will not question it.
When working from home the usual place of work changes, meaning it is more difficult to show that the accident took place while performing the employment contract. Furthermore, when working from home there are usually no witnesses.
For structural home working, the work-related accident act is being amended, which will better protect those whose normal place of work is their home. This amendment means that it will automatically be assumed that the accident took place when the employment contract was being performed if it took place on the day, at the place and within the period stated in the individual employment contract.
For all other forms of working from home, the victim will always need to provide proof.
Do you want to be covered at all times for any work-related accident that may occur while you are working from home? If so, there is the option of having an extension inserted in the work-related accident policy that relaxes the burden of proof for the victim or the beneficiaries. This is done by including limited private life cover in the work-related accident policy.
In practice, such a clause means that an accident taking place at the employee’s normal place of residence and reported by the employer can be settled if it was initially refused due to a lack of evidence.
For work-related accidents, the journey to work is included in the cover. The journey to work is the normal route between the normal place of residence (or second residence) and the workplace, and back. This includes a potential detour from this route to take children to or collect them from a crèche or school. Another automatically included extension to the journey to work is the route between the place where the employee works, and the place where he/she buys his/her lunch.
In the case of working at home from the employee’s residence there is no journey to work, and therefore no covered extension to the route to work to take children to and from a crèche or school. The route to buy lunch is still covered.
When working from home from a different location, then there is an actual journey to work. The employee therefore is covered for his/her journey to work, the route to take the children to and collect them from the crèche or school, and the route to his/her lunch.