Workers’ Compensation for the Hybrid Workplace

Topics: Workers' Compensation

Employers continue to offer their employees hybrid work options. While there has been much progress in making remote work available and efficient, there are still some issues that lead to confusion. One of these issues is Workers’ Compensation coverage for hybrid workers. It can be very difficult to determine whether a company’s workers’ comp should cover an incident if an employee works away from the office with undefined hours.

Understanding the Issue

Aside from Texas, every state in the U.S. requires employers to protect themselves and their employees with Workers’ Compensation. The employer’s policy also covers remote and hybrid workers.
This insurance covers employees for temporary and permanent disabilities that result from a work-related injury. For example, if an employee trips and hurts themselves at the office or lifts something heavy and strains their back and, as a result, is unable to work, workers’ comp will kick in. It will cover any related medical costs and a portion of the lost wages.

The process is relatively straightforward when an injury occurs at the office. But when someone gets injured while working from home, proving the injury was work-related can get complicated. Were they working, or were they taking care of personal matters when the incident happened?


Every State Has Its Own Workers’ Compensation Laws

Workers’ Compensation lawsuits involving remote workers have come up in courts throughout the U.S. and will continue to be clarified with time. For now, each workers’ comp case can vary widely by state. For example, a Florida court sided against an employee who fell over her dog while getting coffee from her home kitchen during business hours, while a Pennsylvania court ruled in favor of an employee who fell down her home stairs after getting a drink during work hours.

What Insurers and Employers Can Implement

Although accidents are unavoidable, you can take some steps to prevent incidents from occurring or at least make it easier to determine if an injury is work-related.

Agree on a Schedule

Lines can get very blurry when an employee has overly flexible hybrid work hours. If they have the latitude to work whenever and wherever they want as long as they complete their duties, there will be many scenarios where it will be hard to prove an incident was or wasn’t work-related.

For example, an employee could slip on ice while walking to a coffee shop. Were they headed there to respond to work emails or to grab a bite with a friend?
If possible, determine a basic schedule that includes:
  • Where they will work
  • Their approximate — or exact — working hours
  • When they intend to take short breaks
  • What time they plan to take off for lunch
That will help you somewhat define when and where the employee is covered under your Workers’ Compensation insurance.

Keep a Digital Footprint

Try to keep track of hybrid employees while they’re working from home. Have them communicate via email or other digital means so there’s a record of them performing work-related duties. You can also have them use monitoring software that records their online activities while they work.

In many situations, having an established digital footprint can go a long way in determining whether an injury occurred while the employee was working. If you can show that they were working on their computer minutes before they headed to the doctor for an injury, it will help get that employee covered for the incident.

Guide Employees With Their Home Office Setup

Just as employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workspace at the office, employees can work on their setup at home. Some of the issues employees should concern themselves with while setting up their home office include:
  • Avoiding hazards, such as overloading their electric outlets
  • Making sure there’s no loose wiring they can trip over
  • Ensuring their work area has adequate lighting
  • Getting and setting up furniture that will help prevent disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome
Guiding employees on how to set up their home office can help lower the likelihood of an incident occurring.

Learn More About Workers’ Compensation Coverage and Hybrid Workers

AmTrust and its agents are experienced providers of workers’ comp for hybrid workers. Feel free to contact us if you need to know more about what business owners and insurers should implement or general information about dealing with workers’ comp and remote work.

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