Today the High Court held that a Commonwealth government employee who suffered injuries whilst engaging in sexual intercourse in a motel room, booked by her employer while she stayed overnight in a country town, could not recover compensation for her injuries.
In Comcare v PVYW the respondent had been required by her employer to work for two consecutive days in a regional town away from her ordinary place of residence. She stayed in a motel which booked by her employer. There, she engaged in sexual intercourse with an acquaintance. In that process, a glass light fitting above the bed was pulled from its mount and struck her on the face, causing her physical injuries and a subsequent psychological injury. She sought compensation from Comcare, arguing that her injuries were suffered "in the course of" her employment and that she was, therefore, entitled to compensation.
By majority, the High Court held that in order for an injury sustained in an interval or interlude during an overall period of work to be in the course of an employee's employment, the circumstances in which the employee was injured must be connected to an inducement or encouragement by the employer. If the employee is injured whilst engaged in an activity at a certain place, that connection does not exist merely because of an inducement or encouragement to be at that place. When the circumstances of an injury involve the employee engaging in an activity at the time of the injury, the relevant question is: did the employer induce or encourage the employee to engage in that activity? On the facts of the case, the majority held that the answer to that question was 'no'.