Employees working from home covered under SOCSO Act for injuries suffered in the course of employment

A man slips and falls going downstairs from his bedroom to his home office, breaking his back. Is he entitled to workplace injury benefits? According to a German court, yes.1
The German Federal Social Court determined that the man, who was working from home, was injured during his “commute” to his home office and this was sufficiently related to his work to entitle him to workplace accident insurance.
Work From Home Accidents
In Malaysia, the pandemic has triggered a seismic shift in how we work, causing many companies to transition to more flexible ways of working with some companies going fully remote and others opting for hybrid work arrangements.
The latest amendments to the Employment Act 1955 which came into operation on 1 January 2023 allows for flexible working arrangements whereby employees may apply for a flexible working arrangement to vary the hours, days or place of work. The employers may approve or refuse the said application within 60 days.
In response to the unprecedented situation caused by the pandemic, the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO), which oversees employees’ social security schemes under the Employees’ Social Security Act 1969 (ESSA 1969), has assured employees that the accident coverage will encompass work from home accidents.
This is clear from a statement made by the Chief Executive Officer of SOCSO, Datuk Seri Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed, on 12 March 2021:
SOCSO provides coverage under the Employees Social Security Act 1969 if accidents occur arising out and in the course of employment to workers who are working from home, as instructed by their employers.
The extension of SOCSO coverage to employees who work from home (WFH) is in line with the new normal following the Covid-19 pandemic,2
After establishing this, Datuk Seri Mohammed Azman also explained that the procedure for compensation claims did not distinguish between regular work accidents and those encountered in home-based arrangements.
The statement by SOCSO’s Chief Executive Officer was made in response to the media’s request for clarification to online allegations that SOCSO’s coverage was only for work accidents at the site of employment, effectively excluding WHF employees.
Extent of Coverage and Protection to Employees Working From Home
SOCSO’s Employment Injury Scheme provides protection to employees against accident or any occupational disease arising out of and in the course of their employment. According to Section 23 of the ESSA 1969, an accident arising in the course of employment shall be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, also to have arisen out of that employment.

Therefore, regardless of whether an employee is working from home or in office, as long as the accident occurs during the employee’s working hours and while carrying out his scope of work as instructed or mandated by the employer, the employee should be held covered under the Employment Injury Scheme.
However, what is true in theory may not always go smoothly in practice. There would be some inevitable grey areas, like when exactly do working hours begin and end each day and what would really constitute injuries related to jobs. This is especially the case when employees put in longer hours or work odd hours to support the business and customer needs. Employees may continue working beyond their normal working hours and it remains unclear as to how the law would protect injuries sustained by employees during these extra hours.
These ambiguities and the blurring of boundaries would need to be addressed accordingly as they may post considerable hurdles to the proper enforcement and implementation of the law.
The assurance given by Datuk Seri Mohammed Azman is reinforced by SOCSO’s announcement in June 2021 that it had paid RM15.41 million in compensation to 1,504 employees who suffered injuries while working from home, under the Employment Injury Scheme and Invalidity Scheme. According to SOCSO, among the common injuries reported by employees during the work from home period include broken or fractured bones due to falling from high places, injuries caused after colliding with an object, muscle strains and passing out.3
Article by Diba Natalia Ishak (Senior Associate) of the Dispute Resolution Practice of Skrine.

1 Walking from your bed to home office now counts as commuting in Germany; CNN Business; 10 December 2021.
2 Socso: Work-from-home accidents eligible for compensation, coverage extended as part of Covid-19’s new normal; malaymail.com; 12 March 2021.
3 Socso paid RM15.41 million to employees who suffered injuries while working from home; nst.com; 4 June 2021.

This alert contains general information only. It does not constitute legal advice nor an expression of legal opinion and should not be relied upon as such. For further information, kindly contact skrine@skrine.com.