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No compensation for coffee break injuries in Italy

Written by
Toffoletto de Luca Tamajo, working in employment law since 1925.
Authors
Carlotta Zoccoli
Attorney - Italy
Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo
Italy
19.11.21
2
An employee who suffered an injury returning from a coffee break at a café was not entitled to compensation from the injuries at work insurance body, according to the Italian Supreme Court.
Background

An employee suffered an accident on her way back to work from a café (there was no canteen service at the workplace), where she had taken a short coffee break. The break was authorised by her employer. The employee took legal action against the National Body for Insurance of Injuries at Work (INAIL) for compensation for damages, since national insurance for injuries at work covers all cases of injury that occur ‘during work activity’.

Both the first instance Tribunal and the Court of Appeal of Florence accepted the employee’s claim. INAIL appealed this decision before the Supreme Court, which has now rejected the employee’s claim for compensation.

The Supreme Court decision

The Court clarified that, according to its well-established case-law, ‘during work activity’ should be understood not as a reference to time and place but to a causal link between the accident and the work activity. The insurance can certainly also cover injuries that occur during moments when the employee is not actually working, but it is not intended to cover generic risks to which the employee is exposed outside the context of work. Specifically, the causal link between the accident and work activities is interrupted when the risk situation arises from an arbitrary choice by the employee who chooses to expose him or herself to a situation that is unrelated to work in order to meet personal needs.

Applying these principles to the specific case, the Court considered that the coffee break could not be included among activities causally linked to work. It was irrelevant that the employer had authorised the coffee break, since the scope of ‘during work activity’ cannot be widened by any form of agreement between the parties or any workplace practice.

Ultimately, if they are permitted to do so, employees are free to take a coffee break outside their offices, but should be careful not to hurt themselves.