This morning, the Western Australian Court of Appeal decision in
Ethnic Interpreters and Translators Pty Ltd v
Sabri-Matanagh  WASCA 186 has provided guidance in
determining an employer's principal place of business, in the
context of cross-border disputes in workers' compensation
The case involved a worker who was allegedly injured while
working on Christmas Island for a company that provided translating
and interpreting services. The primary judge found the appropriate
jurisdiction for the worker to pursue a claim was Christmas Island,
the island being an external territory of Australia albeit with
laws mirroring those of Western Australia.
The primary judge reached this conclusion by applying the
"cascading" series of tests set out by s 20 of the
Workers' Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981
(WA)(Cl) to identify the State or Territory with which the
worker's employment is connected.
The primary judge found there was no one State or Territory in
which the worker "usually worked" or was "usually
based". This was because the worker had worked for the
employer both in Victoria and on Christmas Island for roughly the
same number of days.
The primary judge's attention therefore turned to the
"principal place of business" test. In determining this
issue, the judge focused on the amount or extent of translating and
interpreting business carried on by the employer in each of the
States and Territories in which it operates, concluding that the
evidence did not identify one State or Territory.
On appeal, the Court made the unanimous decision in accepting
the construction advanced on behalf of the employer's Christmas
Island insurer, Allianz Australia Insurance Limited, that the
phrase referred to the State or Territory in which the principal
place from which the business activities of the employer are
controlled or managed is located. This was New South Wales because
the employer's sole director worked in an office in Parramatta
and made all ultimate decisions in relation to the employer's
operations from that office.
This decision is important given cross-border provisions are
substantially similar in all States and Territories. The decision
is consistent with the ACT Court of Appeal's decision in
Avon Products Pty Ltd v Falls (2010) 5 ACTLR 34.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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