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Hong Kong Security Snapshots: Are workers entitled to statutory compensation for work-related stress?

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In a current Hong Kong District Court docket determination Chow Kai Yan v Kingsway Automobiles T Service Ltd [2022] HKDC 165, the Court docket confirmed that an worker who suffered a stroke at work had not sustained an “harm accidentally” which might entitle him to statutory compensation underneath the Staff’ Compensation Ordinance (Cap.282) (ECO). This case gives useful steering on what’s going to quantity to an “harm accidentally” for the needs of the ECO, notably within the context of stress-induced situations.

Background

Mr Chow (Worker), an worker of Kingsway Automobiles T Service Ltd (Employer), suffered an acute cerebral stroke throughout work on the Employer’s workshop. The stroke induced a cardiac arrest and in flip inadequate blood provide to the mind, and the Worker has since fallen right into a coma.

The Worker (represented by his mom) commenced an utility for statutory workers’ compensation underneath the ECO, on the premise that he had suffered an “harm accidentally” at work. Specifically, the Worker claimed that the stroke had been induced or contributed to by the stress at work.

The right strategy to part 5 of the ECO

Part 5 of the ECO gives that: “…if in any employment, private harm accidentally arising out of and in the middle of the employment is induced to an worker, his employer shall be liable to pay compensation in accordance with this Ordinance.” (emphasis added)

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The core challenge of the case is whether or not the stroke which resulted within the Worker’s lack of consciousness constituted an “harm accidentally” underneath part 5 of the ECO. After contemplating a line of English and Hong Kong authorities, the Court docket decided that, with a view to fulfill the necessities underneath part 5 of the ECO, an applicant should:-

  1. establish an exterior occasion or a sequence of exterior occasions which represent an “accident”. The occasion or sequence of occasions, which may be anticipated or sudden, should both have some impact on the bodily or psychological functioning of the applicant the place the harm is suffered, or be within the type of noticeable bodily actions of the applicant when the accident occurred;
  2. present that the accident induced or contributed to the harm. To this finish, the Court docket clarified that an accident is distinct from an harm, as an harm is the impact of an accident; and
  3. show that the accident arose out of and in the middle of the employment. The applicant might be able to depend on the presumption underneath part 5(4)(a) of the ECO which deems that an accident that arose in the middle of the employment to even have arose out of the employment. Nevertheless, that presumption won’t apply if there’s proof on the contrary, and the applicant will then face the burden of proving that the accident arose each out of, and in the middle of, their employment.
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Within the current case, the Court docket discovered that the Worker was not in a position to fulfill all the necessities set out above, and dismissed the Worker’s declare for the next causes:

  1. The Worker’s stroke was an inside harm and never an “accident”. Though the Worker relied on the truth that there had been a considerable enhance within the Worker’s additional time work, there was no correct identification by the Worker of the precise occasion of sequence of occasion (eg. the precise day or days of the Worker’s additional time work) which constituted the “accident”; and

Even when the additional time work and associated stress had constituted an “accident”, the Worker was not in a position to show, via medical professional proof, that additional time work and work-related stress induced or had any actual contribution to the stroke.

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“Accident” vs. “course of”

One other argument superior by the Employer on this case is that work stress is a “steady course of” and subsequently can not quantity to an “accident” underneath the ECO. The Court docket cited the dicta within the English authority Chief Adjudication Officer v Faulds [2000] 1 WLR 1035 and famous that, in some instances which concern illnesses or situations of the like, it will not be potential to obviously distinguish between an “accident” and a “course of”. In such instances, the mere incontrovertible fact that the illness or situation could also be attributable to a “course of” won’t be enough to defeat the applicant’s declare.

Key takeaways

This case clarifies the necessities for workers to be entitled to statutory compensation underneath part 5 of the ECO and gives useful steering particularly to employers who’re dealing with ECO compensation claims in relation to situations or illnesses which may be triggered by basic stress at work. Employers are additionally reminded of their basic obligation to take care of the protection and well being of workers at work, which can prolong to managing workers’ stress stage at work.

* Word: This case is at the moment on enchantment in CACV No 165 of 2022.

Key Contacts:

Tess Lumsdaine
Ben Harris
Ellie Cheung

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