Following the COVID-19 pandemic measures of social distancing, many employers were forced to contend with their employees working from home. If your employee is injured while working from home, they can still claim workers' compensation benefits. These benefits extend to employees who are injured offsite, including those who work from home. Here is some basic information for employers who have work-from-home employees.
One challenge for employers is that the employees' home environment isn't as safe as the workplace. The common injuries that work from home employees seek workers' compensation benefits include cumulative injuries and slips and trips. Cumulative injuries include pain and damage arising from repetitive movement or overuse. For example, sitting on an uncomfortable desk for a long time can cause neck pain. For telecommuters, these injuries affect muscles or joints.
Slips and trips arise when you lose your balance after hitting a solid object. At the workplace, there are measures to address these hazards. However, at home, your employees may not be keen on potential risks like toys, a computer charger's cords, spills, or other objects on the floor.
How Does Workers' Comp Work for Remote Employees?
If your workers are operating from home, you have limited control over the safety of their workstations. It's hard to find witnesses to verify a work-from-home accident. Injuries covered by workers' comp must fall in the scope of employment. The challenge lies in determining if a remote worker's injury qualifies.
Some states refer to the personal comfort doctrine while determining whether a work-from-home injury is eligible for workers' comp benefits. According to this rule, a worker can be compensated for injuries arising when engaging in activities like fetching a glass of water or going for a toilet break while still at work.
In some jurisdictions, eligibility for benefits depends on an employee's actions and circumstances surrounding the injury. For example, if a remote worker trips over his cat and gets injured while making tea in the kitchen during working hours, the court may find no connection between the risk of tripping and the job. Your workers' compensation attorney will advise you on the claims worth contesting and those that are not.
How to Reduce Liability for Workers' Compensation Claims
As an employer, you can take a few steps to reduce liability for workers' compensation claims. First, you need to set ground rules that establish employees' obligations while working from home. The next step is to define working hours to avoid fatigue that could result in costly injuries such as posture issues.
You should also have home office guidelines. For example, employees should set up an ergonomic workstation to prevent repetitive stress injuries like neck pain and issues with posture. Also, you should inspect the home office setup to identify potential work hazards and recommend measures to avoid accidents.
For more information, contact workers' compensation lawyers near you.