Remote Workforce Workers’ Compensation Claims-

Remote Workforce Workers' Compensation Claims

With the evolution of a growing remote workforce, risk managers are reevaluating the complexity of workers’ compensation claims when incidents happen in the home. One often-cited case involved a woman working from home in 2016 who tripped over her dog when she went to get herself a cup of coffee. The fall caused injuries to her hip, shoulder, and knee. Because it happened when she was performing her work duties, she sought workers’ compensation benefits from her employer. This was denied on the basis that the injury occurred when she was performing actions that were not part of her normal duties.

A lower court ruled that the injury was compensable because her work environment was her home, and she was working at the time of the accident. This case then went to an appeals court that decided that she was ultimately not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.  This decision stated that “…the relevant risk was that the claimant might trip over her dog while reaching for a coffee cup in her kitchen. That risk exists whether the claimant is at home working or whether she is at home not working. It existed before (claimant) took her job, and it will exist after her employment ends (so long as she maintains a home with a dog). Because the risk did not arise out of the employment, we must reverse.”

As seen in this example, workers’ compensation claims arising in the home may be complicated. Employers with remote workforces should follow some common-sense best practices to avoid issues.  These include reviewing work-from-home policies and making sure their workers are familiar with them. This will define the employer’s expectations for their staff who work from home. Establishing designated work areas that are free of risks such as tripping hazards is advised. Setting fixed work hours can also assist in confirming whether injuries occurred during work hours or during personal time. Become familiar with the workers’ compensation laws in each state as they vary and some companies operating remotely have workers who live in different states.

In a January 2021 survey, 83% of employers said the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, compared to only 73% who responded in June 2020.  The trend toward remote workforces is likely to increase going forward.

If you are interested in this topic or would like to learn more, be sure to attend Mario Pecoraro, CEO, Alliance Risk Group’s, panelist discussion on August 23 at the Workers’ Compensation Institute Conference (WCI) in Orlando. Mario will moderate a panel of experts including an employer defense attorney, employer, and workers’ compensation manager. The title of the session is, “Avoiding the Risk of Workers’ Comp Fraud in the Era of Remote Workforces.” Hope to see you there!

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