Let’s cut to the chase…yes, companies must provide workers’ compensation coverage for employees working remotely. From an insurance perspective, an “on the job” injury or illness can definitely happen at either the office or at home. While remote work has its advantages (particularly during a pandemic!), employers need to understand and account for the workers’ compensation implications before allowing employees to work at home.
Are Remote Employees Covered by Your Existing Worker’s Comp Policy?
Technology has no doubt been a friend to many during the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees have been able to work remotely at record numbers for the better part of a year, allowing many companies to not just stay afloat but to succeed. Wide-spread telecommuting may have been a godsend, but it comes with its own set of concerns. First among those concerns – does your workers’ compensation insurance policy cover employees working remotely? For most companies, the answer is likely “yes.” However, companies should do a little due diligence and contact their carrier to make sure. Plus, companies should inform their carrier that they will have employees working remotely. Each carrier is a bit different in terms of paperwork and notice requirements, so there may be some additional forms to fill out if you intend on having employees work remotely on a regular basis.
What is a “Work Related Injury” that Happens at Home?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Workers’ compensation policies and laws are different from state-to-state regarding the types of injuries they cover. But as a general matter, to have a viable workers’ compensation claim, the employee must injure themselves while performing their job-related activities in the course and scope of their employment. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate the point:
Ex.1: An employee who works mostly at their home computer starts to suffer from neck and shoulder pain and reports it to HR. The employee may have a possible worker’s compensation claim since the injury arguably happened in the course of performing his job duties. Similarly, if the employee walks to his driveway and picks up a delivery box off the ground and hurts his back, the injury may be a workers’ compensation claim if the package was for a work-related project.
Ex. 2: An employee gets up from his home desk to go refill his coffee cup and trips on the cat, falling and injuring his leg. That injury is likely not covered by workers’ compensation. Similarly, if an employee takes a break from work, walks outside to get some fresh air, and twists his ankle on the sidewalk curb, he likely will not have a workers’ compensation claim.
What if an Employee Reports a Home Injury to HR?
The short answer…treat the injury as if it occurred at the company’s office. Whether an employee’s at-home injury is covered by workers’ compensation may not be readily apparent. That is all the more reason for HR to treat each report seriously and record the details as soon as possible, such as (1) the date and time of the injury, (2) how the injury occurred, (3) what the employee was doing immediately before the injury, (4) the identity of others who may have witnessed the injury, and (5) whether the employee needs medical attention. The injury details should also be reported to your workers’ compensation carrier and included in the company’s First Report of Injury. And don’t forget to record the injury on OSHA Form 300 (if appliable).
Promoting Safety Among Your Remote Workers
Employees who work remotely can often become “out of sight, out of mind.” But their safety is just as important as that of employees working at the company’s offices. Remind your remote employees of the importance of maintaining safety standards at home and segregating a space to work that is comparable to their regular office environment in comfort and safety (i.e., have a proper desk surface, cushioned chair with back support, ergonomically positioned keyboard, mouse, and phone, etc.). Also, your remote workers should sign a “telecommuting” agreement before beginning to work remotely. Within that agreement, it is a good idea to reiterate the appropriate safety standards employees should follow and have the employee attest that their “home office” is appropriately configured to help ensure a safe working environment.
Administering workers’ compensation benefits and managing the claims process can be complicated and time consuming. For almost 25 years, the professionals at C2 Essentials have been assisting clients with workers’ compensation issues, including for remote workforces.
C2 provides strategic HR outsourcing to clients who want to develop optimal workforce strategies and solutions to allow them to be more competitive and profitable. C2 blog posts are intended for educational and informational purposes only.