Australian worker awarded compensation for injuries sustained on day off

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From the country that brought us the infamous compensation for injuries sustained during sex comes another decision that could make employers there shudder. A flight attendant has been awarded workers compensation for injuries he sustained on his day off – and the case is making headlines for the flow-on effects the findings could have on other applications for compensation.

The injuries occurred in March 2010 when Qantas employee John Kennerley set off on his motorbike from his Gold Coast home to spend the night in Brisbane, before being due to fly to Sydney the following day to renew his US visa.

Kennerley collided with a car while making a right-hand turn, and sustained a dislocated hip as well as leg and wrist fractures. After his application for compensation was rejected by the airline’s insurer, Kennerley took his claim to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission which accepted that his injuries were sustained during the course of his employment, even though it was his day off.

The commission held that the flight attendant's employment was a “significant contributing factor” to his injuries, in that the reason he was travelling was wholly related to the requirements of his job. Court president David Hall noted that it was a condition of Kennerley’s employment as a long-haul flight attendant that he hold a current passport and visa authorising entry into the US, and that Qantas had paid for the 5am flight to Sydney to visit the US consulate. “It was the nature and terms of his employment together with decisions and initiatives of Qantas which caused Mr Kennerley to be riding his motorbike where and when he was injured,” Hall said.

The arguments put forward by Qantas – that the worker was spending the night with a Brisbane friend before the flight for social reasons – was not found to be relevant. Kennerley submitted that he was unable to travel by train in time to meet his flight and felt it was unsafe to make an early morning motorcycle journey to Brisbane in the dark.

Greg Black of Turner Freeman, who represented the applicant, told the Courier-Mail the decision could affect could other flight attendants as well as ‘fly-in, fly-out’ workers whose employers require them to travel in their own time to renew work-related licences or visas or meet job conditions.

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