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'Workplace accident': Spanish man who fell over when working at home wins case

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The Local ([email protected])
'Workplace accident': Spanish man who fell over when working at home wins case
The injuries were severe enough to require hospital treatment, including surgery, and the man was forced to take time off work for what was initially ruled a "non-occupational accident." Photo: Pixabay.

A man who injured himself in his own kitchen while getting a glass of water when working from home has had the incident ruled a workplace accident by a Spanish court.

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A Spaniard who fell over in his own kitchen while working from home has had the accident ruled a 'workplace accident' by a Spanish court, overturning the initial ruling that rejected the claim.

In July 2020, the man, a work-from-home employee of Canal de Isabel II, the public company responsible for Madrid's water system, went to his kitchen and fell and hurt his hand. According to the court judgement, as reported in Spanish outlet El Diario, "at around 9.15am he went to the kitchen and picked up a bottle of water, which slipped and caused him to fall, injuring his left hand."

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The injuries were severe enough to require hospital treatment, including surgery, and the man was forced to take time off work for what was initially ruled a "non-occupational accident."

READ ALSO: Everything that changes about working in Spain in 2023

The man appealed on the grounds that he was a 'teletrabajadora' working from home at the time of the accident, but the Spanish social security system rejected his claim, as did Madrid's Social Court No. 4, which initially ruled that the accident was not a workplace accident.

However, the Madrid court Tribunal Superior de Justicia (TSJ) has since overturned the initial judgment made by the lower court and upheld the man's claim because the initial ruling, it says, "makes a somewhat mechanistic and strict interpretation of what is to be understood as a workplace."

"In this case, it basically consists of a table, a chair and a computer in his private home. Therefore, anything that involves moving away from it deprives him of his labour rights," the judges said, rejecting that interpretation.

They based their argument on several rulings by the Spanish Supreme Court, with two in particular in which work-related accidents were recognised for women who sustained injuries while on their break, even though they had physically left the workplace.

READ ALSO: ‘El edadismo’: Is ageism a problem in the Spanish labour market?

Though the new ruling accepted that these sorts of accidents are not "a consequence" of working in the sense that the work activity is not the sole or direct cause of the injury (as it might be for a bus driver injured in a traffic accident while working, for example) they are considered accidents in which there is an "indirect causality," the TSJ said.

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With regards to the case of the Madrid man, the TSJ judges decided that "the activity that gave rise to the accident does not seem to us to be alien to what we have considered to be a normal activity in working life; [that is] drinking water in the place that is supposed to be most easily accessible. It is therefore not a strange action. It did not even take place outside the physical premises," they added.

The rise of working from home, known as 'teletrabajo' in Spain, increased exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic and many companies continued flexible working relationships into 2022 and beyond. For around 2.5 million workers around Spain, working from home has become the norm for at least part of their working week.

With this ruling it seems that, legally speaking, while some workplace hazards have followed them home, so too have their rights as workers before the law.

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