A recent judgment by the Italian Supreme Court considered that accidents during rest periods should not be considered as work-related accidents. In Spain, several judgments have dealt with the issue on a case-by-case basis.
Much has been written since 2019 on the registration of working hours and consideration of the different possibilities that may occur during working hours for the purposes of considering them as part of working hours. Nevertheless, there is one issue that continues to be subject to debate in relation to working time and presently lacks a clear solution: the consideration of rest time or time known as a coffee break as effective working time for the purposes of considering that an accident that occurs during such time should be considered as a work-related accident.
The Italian Supreme Court concluded in a recent judgment that such rest periods cannot be included as effective working time, given that “those that assume the risk of their own choice to satisfy personal needs by facing a situation other than work are not entitled to the protection of insurance”.
Spanish case law, for the purpose of determining whether or not we are dealing with a work-related accident, considers the presumption of the work-related nature of accidents that occur during working hours and at the workplace, as the first level in the analysis of the contingency resulting in sick leave. If this is not the case, an analysis must be carried out of the cause and effect relationship between the damaging event and the work, in such a way that it will be classified as work-related if the result is necessarily linked to the provision of services.
This leads us to reflect on whether or not it can be considered as a work related accident if the accident occurs when a person takes a rest during his/her working hours, for example, to have a coffee, in spite of the fact that the worker is not effectively providing services at the time.
The following judgments illustrate the conclusions of our courts in this regard:
- Judgment by the Labor Chamber of the High Court of Justice of Andalusia in Seville, of September 11, 2019 (appeal 1169\2019). Analysis of the case of a worker run over by a car outside the work center in a rest period during working hours, while attempting to relocate his vehicle closer to the entrance. It was considered that the sick leave was not the result of a work-related accident, but rather a common illness, in the understanding that the reason for re-locating the vehicle was not related to the work.
- Judgment by the Labor Chamber of the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country of 27 September 2016. In this case, however, the court considered the sick leave due to the injuries sustained as a result of a fall on the way to a cafeteria close to the work center during a rest period as a work related accident. In this case, the court ruled that the worker’s acts formed part of her normal and habitual activity in providing services.
- In similar terms, the Pamplona Labor Court No. 4 ruled in its judgment of February 10, 2022that it considered a heart attack suffered by a worker on his way to work as a work-related accident, after he had stopped on the way at a catering establishment (presumably to have a coffee), in the understanding that it was obviously related to the journey and his work, without the stop implying a breach of the “normal pattern of behavior of people” that could have involved a disconnection work.
In short, we will have to analyze how this type of situation evolves and how it is seen by the courts in the future, without being able to rule out the possibility of similar conclusions being reached as those of the Italian court, by considering that these cases are located outside the concept of working time in order to consider an incident that takes place out such time as a work-related accident. In the meantime, be careful during your coffee break.