UKSSCSC RI_12_1975 (12 August 1975)
R(I) 12/75 12.8.75
INDUSTRIAL INJURIES BENEFIT
Arising out of and in the course of insurable employment – home help – journey to duty point
The claimant, a home help employed by a county council, was injured when she slipped and fell whilst walking on an icy footpath in a public road on her way to the duty point to which she had been assigned for the day. She was paid for time (in excess of 20 minutes) spent on her journey from her home to her first duty point and similarly for the journey from her last duty point to her home and it was understood that in each case she would travel by a reasonable route.
Held that –
- the accident suffered by the claimant was not an industrial accident (para 1);
- there was a clear distinction between a person who is employed to travel, for example a commercial traveller, and a person who has definite hours and a fixed place of work, even though it may not be the same place each day or may be more than one place in any one day (para 14);
- to travel by a reasonable route was merely a condition for the payment of travelling time and not a duty laid upon the claimant as part of her employment (para 14);
- the claimant's journey to work was not undertaken in the course of her employment but was preparatory to the performance of her duties (para 15).
The Tribunal of Commissioners considered the question of precedent where previous decisions of Commissioners were referred to and submissions were made as to their persuasive or binding effect, stating that Commissioners' decisions fall into 3 categories:-(a) unnumbered decisions(b) numbered decisions(c) reported decisions
and further described each category.
Held that –
- Commissioners speak with equal authority and any decision irrespective of category may be cited to a Commissioner, local tribunal or insurance officer (para 19);
- if a decision decides questions of legal principle it must be followed by insurance officers and local tribunals in a case involving the application of that principle unless the case can be distinguished (para 19);
- if 2 decisions conflict an insurance officer or local tribunal must –
(a) prefer a decision of a Tribunal of Commissioners constituted under section 16 of the Social Security Act 1975, in preference to a decision of a single Commissioner;(b) give more weight to a reported decision than to an unreported decision;(c) subject to (a) and (b) choose between the conflicting decisions and in that event there is no obligation to prefer the earlier to the later or vice versa (para 20);
- a single Commissioner
(a) follows a decision of a Tribunal of Commissioners unless there are compelling reasons why he should not; and(b) normally follows the decision of another single Commissioner (para 21);
- on questions of legal principle an insurance officer local tribunal or Commissioner are bound to follow the decisions of the High Court and superior courts (para 22).
"The learned Commissioner ….. proceeds to consider the principle upon which the issue should be determined, and in paragraph 6 of his written decision he says this: "The question whether a person who meets with an accident on the public highway while travelling to or from his home has been the subject of numerous decisions of the Commissioner, I do not propose to enter into a lengthy discussion of them. As a general principle the decision in such cases turns on the answer to the question: 'Was the journey in the course of which the claimant was injured a journey on duty or simply a journey to or from duty?' In a comparatively early decision, [R(I) 18/55], the learned Commissioner put it in this way: 'The question at issue is whether on the particular journey he was travelling in the performance of a duty, or whether the journey was incidental to the performance of that duty and not merely preparatory to the performance of it. That question can be determined only by looking at all the circumstances of the case. The fact that a man is paid travelling time or travelling expenses, taken by itself, does not prove that he is travelling in the course of his employment; it may be no more than a means of recompensating him for having the inconvenience of travelling'."
I pause there to observe that the test posed for himself by the Commissioner is accepted by both Counsel as correct, and in my judgment is correct. One can express the legal issue thus: it is whether on the particular journey he was travelling in the performance of a duty or whether he was travelling incidental to the performance of a duty, or whether on the other hand his journey was merely preparatory to the performance of the duty".
This is the test in the case of a journey to work, and an analogous test is relevant in the case of the journey from work. So long as the test applied is correct the question whether a journey is made in the course of employment is one of fact.
(a) Unnumbered decisions which represent the vast majority of decided cases comprise those in which well established principles of law have been applied to the facts as found or in which the sole issues have been of fact. They were not thought by their authors to reflect any unusual circumstances or to contribute to the development of the law, save in some cases to reinforce accepted lines of authority.
(b) Numbered decisions are those to which the Commissioner concerned has had a number allocated with a prefix beginning with the letter 'C'. This ensures a limited distribution of the decision as being of interest, either on its facts, or because it develops the application of some legal principle or because it is the first decision applying the provisions of some statute or regulation, or simply because the Commissioner for some reason wishes his decision to receive a wider distribution than that given to unnumbered decisions, which are identified by the number of the Commissioner's file (also prefixed 'C') at the foot of the decision.
(c) Reported decisions are those selected for reporting. They are so selected by the Chief Commissioner from numbered decisions and are primarily so selected if he is satisfied that they deal with questions of legal principle and that they command the assent of at least a majority of the Commissioners. Reported decisions are printed by Her Majesty's Stationery Office having a number with a prefix beginning with the letter 'R' and are available to the public once printed. They are collected together in bound volumes available at intervals of four years. They are distributed to all insurance officers and local tribunals and gain added weight after publication in so far as they are applied and followed without criticism. About 2,000 Commissioners' decisions have been reported since 1948. A digest of these decisions is also published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
(Signed) R.J.A. Temple
(Signed) J.S. Watson
(Signed) J.G. Monroe