Posted on Categories accident at work

Accident at work – and what happens next: Accident during a business trip

At one time, a French court’s ruling concerning an employee who died from a heart attack after having casual sex [during a business trip] aroused great interest in the Polish press. The controversy concerned the court’s recognition of this incident as an accident at work, due to the fact that it took place during the employee’s business trip. The court held that an employee is protected throughout the entire duration of a business trip, also when carrying out normal human activities, which include having sex, as well as taking a shower or eating a meal. Could a similar judgment be passed in a Polish situation?

Under Polish law, an accident during a business trip is treated as an accident at work. The main difference is that an accident at work should be related to the performance of work, while an accident during a business trip should be related to the performance of tasks entrusted during the business trip.

Business trips

Business trips are deemed to be trips:

  • outside the area where the employer’s registered office is located or outside the employee’s place of work
  • at the employer’s  instruction,
  • for the purpose of performing a task specified by the employer

In addition to these pre-requisites, which should be jointly fulfilled, business trips should be temporary and incidental in nature.

Sometimes, the term ‘atypical business trip’ is used to refer to an employee whose work involves constant travel in a given area. However, this is a misleading concept. Due to the specific nature of the work involved, such travel is a normal performance of work, so it cannot be considered as a business trip of an employee.

Link between the accident and the business trip

Establishing a link between an accident and a business trip is often more problematic than establishing a work-related accident. Such a link is very broadly understood, as the employee is covered not only during the performance of his or her duties, but essentially throughout the entire period of the business trip. It, therefore, also covers the time spent carrying out activities that would otherwise fall within the sphere of private life, such as having breakfast, preparing for sleep or making a phone call about a personal matter. It is irrelevant whether the accident occurred during or outside the employee’s normal working hours.

Of course, not every accident while away on business will be treated as an accident during a business trip. Business travel will not be associated with events that were contrary to its purpose, for example, when an employee becomes deeply intoxicated or gets into a fight. However, in order to break the link between the accident and the business trip, it is not necessary for the employee’s behaviour to be reprehensible. This may also apply to activities in the private sphere which are not considered necessary in the conditions of business travel, e.g. the employee going to another city on a tourist visit.

It can be assumed that this is how a Polish court would classify an accident in the circumstances described in the introduction, considering that casual sex is not part of everyday life’s usual activities.

Anna Kluj