When businesses shifted to remote workplaces, one consideration they may have overlooked are telecommuting policies. A common question among workers’ compensation policies and coverage is: “Are telecommute employees covered under workers’ compensation?”
The short answer is yes.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “an employee injury or illness is compensable under workers’ compensation if it arises out of and in the course of employment, regardless of the location the injury occurs.”
The burden of proof for the work-related injury is on the employee. Employers and employees should understand that “arising out of” is defined as the activity for which the employee was involved in at the time of injury, whereas “in the course of” is defined as the time for which the injury occurred. For an employee to successfully claim workers’ compensation benefits, the employee is required to demonstrate that the activity by which they were injured or fallen ill was in the employer’s interest.
Because telecommuting employees’ residence may serve as the work premises for which he or she conducts employer work, home hazards are considered hazards of his or her place of employment. Therefore, employers are responsible for safe, remote workspaces as in-office employees.
To help reduce workers’ compensation liability fortelecommute employees, employers should develop remote work policies summarizing employer expectations for remote employees. These policies should address:
- Objective. This section should provide a high-level overview of remote work, such as the purpose, the company’s vision, and general expectations for employees.
- Procedures. Procedures should include the proper process by which an employee is to request remote work (i.e., do they have to fill a form and submit to their supervisor?). This should detail any other processes for remote workers, such as expected timeline of remote work allotted, personal issues (i.e., childcare) that may impact remote work, and other similar processes.
- Eligibility. This should highlight which individuals are eligible for remote work, the length for which the individuals may work remote, and proper recordkeeping to ensure successful evaluation for remote work opportunities.
- Equipment. While this section should focus on who will be responsible for providing proper equipment to perform remote work, employee wellness should be taken under consideration. For example, ergonomic equipment is highly recommended to prevent chronic pains or injuries from sedentary positions.
- Security. There should be training on cybersecurity best practices (i.e., password changes, Internet policies, phishing, spams, etc.), as well as oversight by an IT specialist or department to ensure remote employees are following proper security standards. Additional consideration may be needed for employees who handle sensitive personal information, such as protecting file cabinets and desk drawers, regular password maintenance, and home security (i.e., liability protection from burglary).
- Safety. A great way to ensure home or remote work safety is to provide a safety checklist to employees to evaluate their remote workspace. This section should highlight employer expectations with regard to workers’ compensation claims.
- Schedules. All hours worked should be accurately recorded and in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Additional Ad Hoc Arrangements. This section may include temporary, short-term, or other ad hoc arrangement details between employer and employee.
If you already have a remote work policy, but would like an HR specialist to review and offer industry best practice tips, please contact VensureHR. Our human resource services are provided by seasoned industry experts who are equipped with resources and tools to customize HR solutions for your business needs. Partnering with a PEO like VensureHR offers you more competitive workers’ compensation policies, as well as access to a suite of HR services.