Fast food giant McDonald’s Australia has lost a worker’s compensation case, despite the injured employee not being on duty at the time of the accident, with a lawyer claiming it has “enormous implications” for all employers.
Compensation lawyer Bruce Simmonds, of Gold Coast-based Parker Simmonds Solicitors & Lawyers, said that the implications of the decision will be far-reaching for businesses and employees alike.
Mr Simmonds referred to the decision of the Industrial Court of Queensland last week in favour of McDonald’s Australia employee Mandep Sarkaria.
Ms Sarkaria fell and broke her leg after she used a ladder to climb onto the roof of the Richlands outlet for a cigarette just prior to her shift commencing on 1 November 2016.
That was despite the roof of the building not being a designated smoking area for staff, and despite her not having the permission of her employer to go onto the rooftop.
The legal point of contention in the case, however, hinged on whether Ms Sarkaria was working at the time of the injury.
A WorkCover claim was rejected and the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission dismissed Ms Sarkaria’s appeal, according to Mr Simmonds.
However, the Industrial Court overturned both of those decisions.
While noting that while the accident occurred a few minutes before her shift was due to begin, the judge ruled that Ms Sarkaria was on duty because she was required to arrive for work 10 minutes before every shift.
As such, she was deemed to be on a recess and hence eligible for compensation from her employer.
“It’s significant that Justice Martin said if employees were required to attend work at a set time before their shift started, there was a ‘recess’ between that and commencement of the work period,” Mr Simmonds said.
“So, although there was no customer interaction or service from the time they arrived until their shift commenced, they had, in the judge’s view, commenced work.”
According to Mr Simmonds, it sets a precedent for all employers around the designated start time for employees, and hence their ability to claim compensation for injuries incurred on work premises.
McDonald’s Australia has been contacted for comment on the case, and whether it intends to appeal the verdict.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.