A French engineer who was on a business trip died while having sex with a stranger in a hotel room. Last month, an appeals court in Paris upheld a decision by the state health insurance provider that his death was a workplace accident.

In Singapore, the families of workers who might end up in a similar situation are unlikely to get compensation under labour laws here, say legal and insurance experts.

They noted the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica) does not define what constitutes a “work-related accident”.

So it would be left to the courts, which are more likely to rule for the employer because an accident from a sexual act done outside the employee’s professional duties cannot be deemed to have been “in the course of duty”.

However, the courts could also rule differently depending on the circumstances of each case and what is considered to be “work-related”.

Lawyer Gloria James-Civetta told The New Paper: “Singapore law does not limit claim to during office hours… (but it) requires the injury to have been sustained during the ‘course of employment’.”

She gave the example of an employee who goes bungee jumping during a period of free time between meetings and gets injured.

This would be considered a “deviation” from the course of his employment and would not be considered a work-related injury.

“That said, it can be argued the injury was sustained in the course of employment if there is evidence that he went bungee jumping to build business relations with a client,” she added.

General Insurance Association of Singapore chief executive Ho Kai Weng told TNP that an employee could also be covered beyond Wica if his employment contract or company insurance policy has more favourable terms.

A 28-year-old woman who works in communications told TNP that while she and her peers do have sexual encounters during work trips overseas, they do not expect such dalliances to be covered by company insurance.

She said: “No one really expects to die or get injured from hooking up with someone, but in the rare case that they do, it is a private matter, I would not expect my company to cover it.”

In the French case, the engineer’s employer argued that he was not working when he died in 2013, as a result of “an extramarital relationship with a perfect stranger”, the BBC reported.

But the state health insurance provider defended its position by insisting that sexual activity was as normal as “taking a shower or a meal”.

In its ruling, the Paris appeals court upheld this view. It also said that under French law an employer is responsible for any accident occurring during a business trip.

The case gained public attention after French lawyer Sarah Balluet, who specialises in labour disputes, uploaded a LinkedIn post, in which she called the decision questionable, as the sexual act was not done as part of a professional duty.

Ms James-Civetta said: “Having a meal would likely be considered ‘part of everyday life’, especially if it is with a client for the purposes of business.

“With regards to whether more obscure activities such as having intercourse are covered, this would likely be dependent on the nature of the employee’s job.”

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Image: 123RF.com
Text: Cheow Sue-Ann / The New Paper / October 2019