COVID-19 Dramatically Increasing the Work From Home Population – Now What?

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak continues to spread at a rapid pace, Risk Innovations has received an increased number of inquiries regarding work-related COVID-19 claims. Coverage varies with Workers’ Compensation statutes from state-to-state, so all cases reported are evaluated by our carrier partners directly based on the specific details / circumstances before determining if a claim is compensable. This highly contagious disease has forced companies across the globe to send employees home to work remotely where applicable. While none of us have any experience with COVID-19, we fortunately do have experience with remote employees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of American workers telecommuted at least occasionally and 15% had days they only worked from home prior to COVID-19.

Employers must be very careful with the transition involved in moving employees home to work. Remote employees raise significantly more challenges with Workers’ Compensation, particularly since the employer has little to no control over the home premises of the employee.

Remote employees are a significant underwriting factor for our Workers’ Compensation carriers and as such, an important question on the Acord 130 application: “22. Do any employees predominantly work at home? If “YES”, # of employees: ____”

Here are some best practices to ensure your company’s work from home policy benefits the employee AND the employer:

  • Physically inspect the employee’s home office to make sure it is safe.
  • Please note that OSHA will not conduct inspections of home offices, will not hold employers liable for home offices and does not expect employers to inspect home offices).
  • Clearly define the physical boundaries of the home office. If the boundaries are not well-established, an employer might be liable for an injury that happens anywhere on the employee’s property.
  • Set specific work hours. Otherwise, an employee could argue that an injury occurring at any time of day or night is work-related.
  • Specifically describe the scope of the employee’s activities. This reduces the possibility a clerical employee could successfully present a claim for doing a physical activity while in the home. The policy should make it clear that activities falling outside the employee’s job description are not the employer’s responsibility.
  • Teach employees about injury prevention. The largest injury exposure for employees working from home is ergonomic type injuries.

This information was provided by Risk Innovations, a JenCap Holdings Company.

Risk Innovations combines industry-leading Workers’ Compensation expertise with the firsthand knowledge of being a remote company. Our team is ready to navigate the changing workplace as a result of COVID-19 and ensure all your bases are covered.

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