Where does Workers Compensation Begin and End?

By Andrew Royce, June 23, 2015

To be covered under workers' compensation, a worker must be injured while within the scope of their employment. While this rule seems clear, the term ‘Scope of Employment’ remains the subject of many legal disputes each year.

Defining the beginning and ending of the workday is crucial in determining ‘Scope of Employment’ under the workers compensation policy. Work activities can overlap with personal activities, making lines blurred and hard to determine. Questions are often raised when injuries occur during the commute to or from work, traveling for business, occurring in parking lots and sidewalks, or during extracurricular work activities.

While in the Course of Employment

Illinois follows the "while in the course of employment" rule. This rule states that regardless of an employee's physical location or the time of day of the injury, if performing assigned job duties, the injury is considered a work place accident and is covered by workers' compensation.

Usually, an employer is not liable for providing workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained during one’s daily commute. This is known as the “coming and going” rule. However, like most things with workers compensation, there are exceptions.  

The exceptions to the “coming and going” rule usually consider whether the travel of the employee was somehow a benefit to the employer and if it was closely related to the employee’s job duties. While there are many exceptions to the “coming and going” rule, they generally fall into four general categories: 

  • The employee has no fixed place of employment and travels for work
  • The employee is injured while traveling to a location different than normal
  • The employee is on a special assignment for the employer; and
  • Travel is a significant part of the employee’s job duties.

Parking Lots and Sidewalks

In most states, workers compensation coverage begins when an employee starts the workday by stepping onto the employer's premises or an area controlled by the employer. It ends when an employee steps off the employer's premises or an area controlled by the employer.

The term "controlled by" refers to property an employer either owns, pays a mortgage on, pays a third party (like landscapers) to maintain, or is designated as a common area for which the employer pays rent along with other tenants.

An area controlled by an employer is considered an extension of the worker's actual workplace. Examples of areas controlled by employers include sidewalks, parking lots, and any other property an employee traverses on her way to and from the actual workplace.


Each state has varying workers compensation laws and interpretations. It is good practice to work with an insurance broker knowledgeable about the laws specific to your company and state(s) that you operate.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance

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