Are Work-from-Home Employees Covered by Workers Comp?

Work from Home Sadler Insurance

Looking at risks like slips and falls and other risks

Work from home surges under COVID-19

Employees had to quickly figure out the work from home logistics at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that workers have conquered those logistics and experienced the comforts and benefits of working from home, they don’t want to come back to the office.

According to the Pew Research Center, prior to COVID-19, 23% of employees with jobs that could be done from home opted to work from home all or most of the time. By October 2020, that number rose to 71%. Today, close to 60% of employees work from home the majority of the time, if their roles are conducive to teleworking. Even employees who have returned to the office have negotiated to spend more of their work week working from home.

What does this mean for employers in terms of workers comp exposure?

Employers who think they can reduce their workers comp premiums because much of their workforce is no longer located on company property need to know that they are still required – in all states except Texas – to provide workers comp coverage. While certain exceptions may vary from state to state, businesses with employees working from home must still provide workers comp coverage.

Performance metrics released in May 2022 in the 2021 State of the Line Report produced by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) indicate a decrease in workers compensation claims, due in part to pandemic-related shutdowns and to the rise in telecommuting. 

What if an employee who works from home gets injured?

The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) ranks slips and falls as the leading cause of workers compensation claims. Employers may be surprised to learn that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires an employer to provide a safe work environment, regardless of whether the employee is working at the employer’s workspace or from home.

Different states interpret this obligation differently. For example, a Florida case (Sedgwick CMS v. Valcourt-Williams) reviewed whether an employee who tripped over her dog while working from home was covered by workers compensation. The court found that this employee was not covered. It determined her risk existed whether she was working at the time of the occurrence or was at her home and not working when this incident occurred. The court found that this claimant’s employment did not expose her to conditions that substantially contributed to her risk of injury.

Employers should know that there are cases where an employee who slips and falls when getting a cup of coffee or going to the bathroom are covered. A legal principle known as the personal comfort doctrine states that the course of employment is not interrupted by certain acts relating to the employee’s personal comfort, such as brief breaks for eating, drinking, using the restroom, smoking, seeking relief from heat or cold, showering or obtaining fresh air.

If an employer does not recognize that workers compensation rules still apply to teleworkers, the employer should know that those who work from home need to be included in employee counts. 

The bottom line

Most teleworkers are likely unaware that they may have access to workers comp benefits while working from home. An employer does not control the employee’s home environment or ergonomic set-up. The employer also has diminished control as to when the employee is working and taking breaks. These factors could contribute to an increase in the number of injuries, driving up workers compensation claims from employees who work from home. 

If you have questions or want to inquire about receiving a Workers Compensation proposal, please call Sadler Insurance at 800-622-7370 or click here to get a quote. You’ll be asked to provide information about the types of work and annual projected payroll of your workers.

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