Advances in digital technology have transformed the way how employees do their work, or more precisely, WHERE they get their job done. Moreover, the pandemic and lockdown dramatically changed the definition of “normality” for everyone across the globe. What was earlier thought to be some sort of a luxury, has now become a necessity for virtually every business. Yes, we are talking about “work from home.”
In the time of pandemic, when stay-at-home regulations came into effect, it became apparent that organizations must implement work-from-home policies in order to continue their business operations. As more and more employees are now embracing work from home, letting them work remotely seems to be the most plausible option to retain and lure best talents. And if experts are to be believed, “work from home” is here to stay for long.
Working from home might appear to be the safest option for employees, but the bitter truth is that an injury can happen at any time, anywhere. So, if that happens to someone, what are their options? Continue reading to clear your doubts related to personal injury claims and worker’s compensation while working from home.
The Coverage Criteria
The most important aspect of any insurance coverage is its qualifying criteria, i.e., the conditions that should be met in order to make a claim valid. In general, workforce compensation settles claims for the injuries caused “within the scope and course” of employment.
Employees, whose jobs require them to work off-site or travel regularly, are eligible to make an insurance claim, even if they are not permanently office-based. In case you are not certain about your insurance conditions, look at your employment contract or contact your HR department for suggestions. You can also consider approaching a personal injury lawyer, specializing in employment laws, in your region to get expert advice or understand your rights.
Questions You May Require to Answer
If you get hurt while working from home, you may require to prove that your injuries are actually work-related. However, you should be recompensed – whether the injuries are due to an accident or someone else’s fault/negligent behavior.
To establish that you insurance claim is valid, you may need to answer the following questions:
- Is the cause of the injury directly related to your job requirements?
- Did you get the activity pre-approved by your employer?
- Was the activity of any benefit to your employer or their business?
By and large, you may require explaining in a reasonable manner that your injury and the subsequent claim is the outcome of something that you did as part of your job. Remember that you may also be asked to provide evidence to support your claim.
Communication between Employer and Employees is the Key
A crucial factor that determines the validity of a work-related personalinjury claim is whether or not appropriate communication requirements related to changes in work-specific circumstances were fulfilled.
Employers are required to share instructions, procedures, and risks of working in a home-based or off-site setting through formal channels.
If you find something as a potential risk to your safety when working from home or off-site, it must be communicated to everyone involved in a formal manner (in writing), including every detail. Possible consequences of injuries resulting from wilful negligence or misconduct must also be made clear to everyone.
Legal Responsibility of Employers in Work-Related Injuries
A home-based office may not be as dangerous as dedicated workplaces, but that doesn’t mean that a worker may not get hurt while working from home. So, if any of your workers sustains injuries during their shift hours, are you legally responsible? Yes, your business might be held responsible for such an injury.
Reason being, employees, working from home, are legally eligible for the very same workers’ compensation benefits as regular office-based employees. As an employer, your inability to have control over home-based workspace situation be irrelevant in such cases and the injuries must be reported your insurance company. A licensed adjuster will thereafter determine the eligibility and coverage. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that it is your responsibility as a business owner to provide your employees with a safe work environment, both in office-based and telecommuting settings.
Common work-related injuries like stress or strain due to repetitive tasks, slips, falls, and trips can occur at home too – just as they could happen in a regular workplace.
How Workers’ Compensation Works
When a worker files a personal injury claim, a licensed adjuster determines if the harm or the circumstances – that led to the injuries – occurred within the course of their employment, and whether or not those circumstances were the direct outcome of their job-specific requirements. In simple words, the adjuster finds what the worker was doing at the time of injury and when exactly the injury occurred.
The adjuster will further assess whether the employee sustained injuries in a traditional work setting or at a home-based office. The exact location, where the injury occurred, is also determined along the investigation process – whether the injury occurred at home or from home – in an office chair or while driving. These information will help the adjuster calculate the eligibility and level of compensation.
Tips for Employers to Safeguard Their Businesses
As a responsible employer, it is your duty to execute policies and practices that could limit your liability toward workers’ compensation, particularly for employees, who work from home. These may include the following:
- Creating work-from-home policies, outlining your expectations from employees, who work remotely
- Developing guidelines for home-based offices that should require a designated office area at home.
- Training employees to help them create a safe workspace at home with a special focus on ergonomics.
- Establishing fixed hours for work, rest periods, and meal breaks for telecommuting workers. This will particularly help determine the whether the injury happened “within the course of” the injured worker’s employment.
- Safeguarding your company against potential lawsuits, stemming from work-related injuries, by having a comprehensive worker’s compensation insurance policy in place.
Work from home is the need of the hour and recent stats show that remote working is likely to become the most preferred way of doing business in the coming years.
While working from home is a necessity today, it shouldn’t impact your worker’s compensation as you continue to carry out the duties, required by your job. In case of an injury, you may be needed to prove that the injuries were sustained while performing the regular job within the scope of your employment, and not the result of any wilful negligence or misconduct.
As far as employers are concerned, they should strive to minimize the incidence of work-related injuries at home-based offices by ensuring proper communication with their employees, implementing special work-from-home policies, and offering safety training to their home-based workforce. For expert advice, contact an experienced attorney, specializing in labor and workers’ compensation laws, at MANGAL, PLLC today!