There was a time when the opportunity to work at home was once considered a luxury afforded to a small portion of the workforce. A vast number of employers embraced the ideology that staff members had to be physically present to ensure that they were working. Whether they could perform their tasks at home with equal efficiency, that type of employment dynamic was largely dismissed.
When the coronavirus entered the United States, employees and their employers no longer had a choice. The longtime exception became the rule. Working at home became the safest option for everyone. Whether this is all part of the “new normal” or a temporary solution, companies have realized significant cost savings in the short-term by having their employees work remotely.
While the trend could continue post-pandemic, certain issues will require attention, starting with the possibility of handling workers’ compensation claims for remote staff.
Are Injuries Suffered in Remote Settings Eligible for Workers’ Comp?
The main issue surrounds an employee performing their day-to-day duties at home, only to suffer an injury in the process. Effectively, the employer “imported” the work setting into the employee’s home while simultaneously incorporating the staff member’s house into the work environment. Technically, that could make employees “on-premises,” a vital component for a workers’ compensation claim.
If a staff member’s activities deviate from the normal work routine – such as going out for lunch – workers’ compensation would not be an option. However, some exceptions could arise. Staff members looking to save time by performing a work-related task, such as running an errand to purchase supplies, could be involved in some type of accident. Does the injury qualify for workers’ compensation?
Work-at-home workers’ compensation claims would be handled differently. Investigations would require modifications as unique standards exist in a work-at-home arrangement. Employers have minimal, if any control, over a home office setting. Conversely, an employee suffering work-related injuries without any witnesses would face significant challenges in proving a claim.