Work from home is here to stay. The pandemic taught us that ‘the meeting that could have been an email’ is now better off just as an email. Employees are enjoying the time saved commuting (not to mention all the grooming and dressing up!) and putting it to more productive use. Even employers are happy with the savings in electricity, infrastructure, and office space.
Employers are even happier about the fact that their employees are way more satisfied than ever before. In fact, 98% of employees would like to work from home for the rest of their careers. So is that just because they’re lazing on the couch instead of working? No! 63% of the global workforce think their productivity is greater when working from home, rather than from the office.
These figures clearly indicate that remote work is here to stay. So that begs the question – what if your employee suffers an injury while at work from home? Who bears the liability? And what do you need to do to ensure that as an employer, you’re safe? Read on, to find out!
What’s Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is the assistance an employee gets when he or she is injured or sick while working. Over the years, the amount of compensation paid has increased by around 50% the last 10 years.
Workers’ compensation usually includes:
- Reimbursement or payment of any medical bills due to an injury on the job
- Compensation for lost wages
- Death benefits
- Partial or total permanent disability compensation
- Vocational rehabilitation
This is the tricky bit. When at the workplace, any injury is considered a work injury. But when the injury happens at home, the lines do get blurred a bit. The key is to be able to differentiate if the injury occurred directly due to the job, or because of other circumstances. To explain, here are some situations.
These pass for a work injury:
- Your worker was using an instrument/device as part of the job and suffered a shock
- Your employee was opening a package delivered from the office and suffered a cut
- Your staff member spent a long time at the computer and suffered a serious eye strain that necessitated medical treatment
These are unlikely to pass for a work injury:
- Your worker stepped out of the home for a break and got hit by a vehicle
- Your employee decided to make a snack during work hours and got a big burn
You have a tried and tested policy for employees when they’re at work. At your workplace, that is. But when the work arena shifts to individual homes, it’s hard to formulate a policy, considering that the circumstances are different from the office, and the situation in each home is different. In such cases, the key is to create general guidelines. Do note that compensation also includes disease as well as mental wellbeing. In Australia for example, while injuries made up for 61% of the claims in 2019-20, disease accounted for 30%, and psychological issues 8%.
To illustrate, here are some examples of guidelines to pass on:
- Ask workers to ensure that they use an ergonomic table and chair
- Give guidelines on maintaining proper posture
- Tell workers handling things like boxes and any equipment to use safety gear
- A no-slouch-on-the-couch directive
A major part of ensuring the wellbeing of your employees is in them knowing that they’ll be taken care of in case anything goes wrong. A great way of accomplishing this is by outsourcing the task to someone with strong experience and expertise in this niche. You can visit hrassured.com.au to understand the benefits of using a firm that will do all the groundwork for you, so you and your employees can focus on your core competencies.
How to React When an Employee Claims a Work Injury?
When injuries happen, remember that you’re not the authority that determines the nature of the injury. That’s the job of the company providing the workers’ compensation services. Your job is to collect information regarding the circumstances and nature of the injury as accurately as possible.
The details you need to ask for are:
- Time and date of the injury
- The circumstances that led to the injury
- An in-depth description of the injury
The key is speed. Both in the employee reporting the injury and your passing on the details to the insurance company.
How is the Claim Investigated?
Once your claim goes to the insurance company, they’ll pass it on to their insurance claims adjuster. The adjuster’s job is to investigate the employee’s claim and determine if it is genuine. One advantage of passing on the injury information quickly is that the details of the incident will be fresh in your staff member’s mind. This will certainly help to convince everyone concerned that the injury is genuine.
These are the steps the adjuster will take, as part of the investigation:
- A written or recorded statement directly from your employee, describing what happened in detail
- A signed authorization for medical release, so that all medical or hospital records related to the injury can be collected
- An interview with you, or the concerned person at the office. This is to ensure that both the employee’s as well as the employer’s statement match each other without any discrepancies
If the incident is found to be genuinely work-related, the amount to be paid to compensate for the injury will be worked out, based on the insurance company’s policies for that injury. On the other hand, if it cannot be determined for certain that it is a work injury, the company is likely to consult an attorney. The attorney will advise on whether the claim is to be accepted, or is weak enough to be denied by a court of law.
How to Ensure that Your Workers’ Compensation Policy Works Remotely
With remote working here to stay for good, you need to take the following steps to ensure that it’s in sync with the new normal:
- Run a thorough review of your remote work injury reporting and management system
- Have a close relook at how your insurance company deals with work injuries that occur away from the workplace
- Discover if the laws in your area or state have been changed due to the pandemic
- Ensure your employees follow all the directives issued by the government and health authorities
With work from home becoming as ubiquitous as face masks, you must ensure that workers’ safety does not fade into the background. You have to ensure that your employees are taken care of in case anything goes wrong – even at home. Do you have any suggestions or queries regarding workers’ compensation for remote employees? Tell us in the comments section below.