China's highest court has called for flexibility in deciding whether people who suffer injuries outside of work should be eligable for workers' compensation, the Guangming Daily reports.
In 2011, a junior school teacher named Feng Fangdi died suddenly at home while marking examination papers. Feng's school reported the case to the Haikou Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, saying that Feng’s death constituted an on-the-job injury. The bureau rejected the claim on the basis that Feng had died at his home rather than in the workplace. Feng’s relatives appealed the decision to the Haikou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, which overturned the decision.
In an accompanying editorial, the Guangming Daily says the bureau's original decision was consistent with national regulations on workplace injury, which center on the place and time of an injury. Feng did not die at his school and was not working during approved hours, nor was his work arranged by the school, and his behavior could be considered voluntary, it suggested. Fatigue or some unknown illness could have caused his death.
But the case has attracted the attention of China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) – which proposed workers' compensation judgments need to be more flexible. According to the SPC, a teacher's working hours and workplace do not conform to the rigid “nine-to-five” standard of many jobs. The work of teachers, editors and other freelancers often continues at home – which should be regarded as normal or overtime work and protected as such. In Feng’s case, the SPC pointed out that Feng was clearly working when he died, entitling him to compensation.