Doctrine of Notional Extension under the Workmen Compensation Act, 1923


There is no problem in detecting that the accident occurred in the course of employment when a workman is injured in the working place and in the working hour and doing his duty. The problem arises when these elements do not coincide together. But a workmen if injured just near the work premises or just before joining the work or in the way to work problem arises. To address this kind of problem and giving some kind of relief to the workmen the theory of notional extension evolved.

“As a rule, the employment of a workman does not commence until he has reached the place of employment and does not continue when he has left the place of employment, the journey to and from the place of employment being excluded. It is now well-settled, however, that this is subject to the theory of notional extension of the employer’s premises so as to include an area which the workman passes and repasses in going to and in leaving the actual place of work. There may be some reasonable extension in both time and place and a workman may be regarded as in the course of his employment even though he had not reached or had left his employer’s premises. The facts and circumstances of each case will have to be examined very carefully in order to determine whether the accident arose out of and in the course of the employment of a workman, keeping in view at all times this theory of notional extension.” 

Wider interpretation of duty:

Court has given a wider and popular meaning of “duty” to expand the scope of this section. The court also talks about the service contract to determine which can be come under the preview of this section. Justice Cozens-Hardy M. R. said “……… it was an implied term of the contract of service that these trains should be provided by the employers, and that the colliers should have the right, if not the obligation, to travel to and from without charge.” In the next case the court has interpreted the term “duty” in stricter sense.

In Weaver v. Tredegar Iron Coal Co.  House of Lords after examining a large number of authorities given a wider meaning of “duty” but did not negated the duty test.In this case lord Atkin said that there can be no doubt that the course of employment cannot be limited to the time or place of the specific work which the workman is employed to do. It does not necessarily end when the “‘down tools” signal is given, or when the actual workshop where he is working is left. In other words, the employment may run on its course by its own momentum beyond the actual stopping place. There may be some reasonable extension in both time and space.” Lord Porter further said that if an accident occurs while coming to the workplace or leaving the place can be out of and in the course of employment if he is bound by the way he proceed under the terms of the contract of service express or implied. Here duty test was confirmed.

Expanding the preview of Service Contract:

In St. Helens Colliery Co Ltd v. Hewlston  the court said that the injury did not occur in the course of employment because the employee was not bound or obliged to travel by that special train and he could have taken other transport. If he were bound by the service contract to travel by that train then it would have been in the course of employment (Lord Buckmaster). It was also added that if the place of work is like that there is no alternative means of transport other than the transport given by the employer then it can be concluded that there is an implied term in the service contract to use that transport (Lord Atkinson). The same view was taken in Mackenzie v. I.M. Issak says that a workman in a colliery is not in course of his employment while using the transport of the employer if he is not bound by the terms of the contract to travel by that transport.

There was a particular situation where employee has to take bus service to reach his workplace from home and vise versa. It was necessary for doing his duty efficiently and punctually which was a condition under his service  . So, travelling in that bus was an implied condition to his duty. It was also said that this doctrine was developed to cover the factory, workshops and harbors but it can be applied in this kind of situation also. Compensation was granted holding that the accident arising in the course of employment. Though the court said what would be the indicator that when the work starts and ceases that depends on case to case basis.

In Union of India v. Mrs . Noor Jahan  a railway gangman was ordered by his employer to go to another place for cleaning and in the way from one place to another accident happened. Justice Sukla observed that the accident has occurred in the duty hour and when he was going to do his duty on behalf of his employer and he concluded that the accident has occurred in the course of his employment.

Public Place and this Doctrine:

There are some situations where this doctrine does not apply. When a workman is on the public road or public place and not there for fulfilling the obligation and his work does not make necessary to be there. The proximity of the work premises and spot of accident become immaterial. The notional extension of the place of work cease when workman come to a public road. There were some clarification made in the next case in this matter.

In Saurashtra Salt Manufacturing Co. v. Valu Raja  Justice Jafer Imam said that,

“It is well settled that when a workman is on a public road or a public place or on a public transport he is there as any other member of the public and is not there in the course of his employment unless the very nature of his employment makes it necessary for him to be there. A workman is not in the course of his employment from the moment he leaves his home and is on his way to his work. He certainly is in the course of his employment if he reaches the place of work or a point or an area which comes within the theory of notional extension, outside of which the employer is not liable to pay compensation for any accident happening to him.”

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