Given a teacher’s ability to make a workers compensation claim when injured while travelling to work has been significantly curtailed by changes to the Workers Compensation Act, Federation sought clear guidelines from the Department of Education and Communities regarding travelling to and from work in treacherous conditions such as snow and black ice.
Deputy Director-General Corporate Services Peter Riordan’s letter in reply stated: “The Department will not be providing written advice to teachers about procedures to follow when conditions make travel treacherous or regarding compensation for injury while travelling.”
That said, he wrote: “The decision to travel or not to travel to work is one that needs to be made by the individual based on the information on hand at that time. Staff may wish to confirm if the school is operational as part of their decision making process however each individual will have to consider their travel arrangements independently as staff will live in a variety of places which may or may not be affected by local conditions. Staff should also listen and act upon advice from local authorities to assess if roads are open and safe to travel.”
He also wrote: “Departmental staff should make informed decisions about their safe travel to and from work. Any decision regarding workers compensation liability for a journey claim will be made by the Department’s Insurer, Allianz. Allianz will investigate the nature of the incident and make a determination as to whether or not there was a real and substantial connection with employment.”
In light of information provided by the Department of Education and Communities it is clearly reasonable for teachers to make their own informed decisions about whether it is safe to travel to their workplace. In the event that such a journey would be too hazardous in the opinion of the teacher it is appropriate to contact the Department and explain that it is too dangerous to travel to school.
There is still a requirement to attend another school if it is safe to do so. However, in accordance with the Teacher’s Handbook family and community services leave would be available to teachers who are unable to attend their own or another school in cases of floods, snowfall or other natural emergencies.