The post-COVID-19 work has created many challenges when defining workers’ compensation cases for the claim management team. One of these challenges is work injuries in the homework environment. This new test creates opportunities for interested stakeholders to be proactive and seek solutions that can help drive down workers’ compensation program costs.
Are Work From Home Injuries Compensable?
The short answer is – it depends. While no complete case law is set on this topic, courts confronted with this issue default to the standard outlined in the workers’ compensation act. Absent a statutory presumption, all workers’ compensation acts follow the same two-part test when addressing issues concerning primary liability.
- Arising Out of: The work injury is linked to, originated from, or is the result of, in whole or in part, an activity or action undertaken because of an employee’s employment; and
- Course of: The work injury occurred when the employee may be performing duties while fulfilling or doing something incidental to those duties.
It can be tricky to defend against claims within the employee’s household. These injuries are generally unwitnessed. The credibility of the employee and the information provided is paramount.
Steps to Successfully Defend Home-Based Injuries
Injuries that occur at a home office require a more rigorous investigation. This is because these injuries can morph into more significant claims and are mostly unwitnessed. At the same time, treating an employee claiming to have been injured at work with request and dignity is crucial.
- Investigation: Conduct a complete investigation. Be sure to get specifics on the activity and when it occurred. Never make assumptions.
- Work Injury Reporting: Ensure that employees know how to report a work injury before allowing them to work at home. Demand all at-home work injuries are reported.
- Nature and Extent of Injury: Obtain information on the mechanism of injury and immediate symptoms or pain complaints following the work injury. Determine all relevant medical providers where the employee has sought medical care before the incident and after.
- Return to Work: Have a dedicated return to work plan after all injuries. Establish a Return to Work Coordinator as an intermediary between treating doctors, vocational counselors, and employees. Communication is key!
Never cut corners when investigating a work injury at a home office. The focus should be on getting details, ensuring that policies and procedures are followed, and getting the employee back to work promptly.
Special Considerations for Home Office Work
Interested stakeholders can do their part to ensure a safe work environment and reduce the frequency and severity of at-home work injuries by being proactive.
- Standardize Work at Home Hours: Employers and interested stakeholders can take aggressive steps to reduce work injuries at the home office by implementing standardized work hours. By strictly adhering to this policy, one can reduce the number of possible work injuries.
- Use of Monitoring Software: As a condition of being allowed to work from home, employers can require employees to use software that monitors work activities. Issues of privacy should be reviewed before use.
- Designated Work Locations: Employer should demand that work be performed from a designated physical location inside an employee’s home. This should include using a desk with a suitable office chair. Other issues concerning ergonomics should be reviewed regularly to avoid common work injuries resulting from sedentary work activities.
- Institute Office Hoteling Policies: Office hoteling is a flexible way of reserving a desk or room in your workplace for a set period. As the name suggests, hoteling operates in the same way as an actual hotel. Employees must be within the workplace on specified days during a pay period. This allows supervisors and managers to assess work productivity and establish professional relationships.
It is also essential to remember that employers must be consistent when enforcing policies related to at-home work. When exceptions become the norm, it will only be simplified for employees to go rogue and be successful on most claims.
The modern work office will allow more employees to work from home, not in the traditional office setting. This will create challenges for interested stakeholders and the claim team. It is crucial that the correct standards be applied and steps are taken to ensure a complete investigation. One can also reduce the frequency and severity of these injuries by implementing consistent policies. Taking these steps will reduce one’s exposure and reduce workers’ compensation program costs.
Michael Stack, CEO of Amaxx LLC, is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and provides education, training, and consulting to help employers reduce their workers’ compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is co-author of the #1 selling comprehensive training guide “Your Ultimate Guide to Mastering Workers’ Comp Costs: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%.” Stack is the creator of Injury Management Results (IMR) software and founder of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. WC Mastery Training teaching injury management best practices such as return to work, communication, claims best practices, medical management, and working with vendors. IMR software simplifies the implementation of these best practices for employers and ties results to a Critical Metrics Dashboard.
Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/
©2023 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.