The Virtual Employee And Their Workers' Comp Risks

October 29, 2019


Rebecca Batisto
The Virtual Employee And Their Workers' Comp Risks

Employees today are choosing to work from home whenever available. Whether you call it telecommuting or working virtually, it has become perfectly acceptable and often increases employee satisfaction and efficiency, while also eliminating long commutes or time spent chatting at the water cooler.

But how does workers’ compensation coverage work when employees are not onsite or if they work in an environment the company cannot control? What are the liabilities? The risks? And, most importantly, what steps can companies take to mitigate risks?

Are Employees Covered?

In most instances, an employee injury or illness is covered under workers’ compensation if it arises out of, or in the course of, employment, regardless of the location where the injury occurs. To successfully claim workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must simply prove they were acting in the interest of the company when they were injured.

Courts have found that an employer’s lack of control over the employee’s home-based workplace is irrelevant. Therefore, employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment regardless of location.

How Do You Limit Liability?

So, if employees work from a place that employers can’t fully control, what’s a company to do? Luckily there are some steps you can take to limit exposure when it comes to workers’ compensation:

  • Outline employer’s expectations of employees who work from home in a telecommuting policy.
  • Establish guidelines for a home office, such as a designated work area, and provide support related to workstation setup and safety measures, including ergonomics.
  • Conduct periodic checks of employee home offices to help identify and eliminate work area safety hazards if appropriate and reasonable.
  • Educate employees as to how to report injuries as well as the procedures for returning to work.
  • Set fixed work hours and meal and rest periods for telecommuters. Doing so can help establish whether an injury was “in the course of” employment.

Check Local Laws

Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state. This is especially important when the company and the telecommuting employee are located in different states.

Be sure you know your exposure in each state where you have a working employee and adjust your coverage - and policies - accordingly. Work closely with your insurance provider to develop the right coverage for your liability potential.

Not sure if you have the right coverage in place for telecommuting employees? Our specialists can review your needs and match you with the right coverage. Normandy Insurance puts our clients first, so if you need support we’re here to help! Contact us today!

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