Yes, Workers’ Comp for Remote Employees is Usually Required

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Let’s get right down to it: Workers’ compensation is just as important for remote employees as it is for on-site employees.

Workers’ compensation, also known as workers’ comp, is a legal requirement for most businesses. Although some states have exceptions, those exceptions typically don’t apply to companies with three or more employees. Remote workers are legal employees, making them eligible for workers’ comp.

This form of insurance provides compensation to workers who have been injured on the job. However, it doesn’t just help employees; workers’ comp prevents employers from having to cover all of an employee’s medical expenses and wages if they have to take time off of work due to their injuries.

Why You Need Workers’ Comp for Remote Employees

Remote work isn’t going anywhere, as evidenced by the 35% of employees who can work from home who choose to do so every day. Remote workers have many of the same legal rights as onsite workers. If your organization pays sick time or PTO, it provides those benefits to all employees, regardless of whether they work remotely or in the office. 

Your company should include workers’ compensation in its remote work compensation package if it is legally required to provide it. Workplace injuries can happen just as easily in someone’s home office as they can at an onsite location, after all. The insurance covers an employee’s medical bills, lost wages, and disability insurance that result from a work-related injury. 

As you can imagine, determining whether an injury was or wasn’t work-related when an employee works remotely without supervision can be challenging. Still, it’s your company’s responsibility to maintain workers’ compensation coverage, while your insurance company can help distinguish a claim’s eligibility based on evidence a worker provides, or lack thereof.

Just like workers’ comp for onsite workers, remote workers’ comp claims only get approved for eligible circumstances. Certain situations that take place alongside an injury, like being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or being negligent while using equipment, can render a claim invalid.

Therefore, there aren’t many differences between workers’ comp for remote employees, allowing you to use the same plan to cover both remote and onsite workers. 

However, compliance is something you’ll want to stay on top of. Outlining detailed safety rules for remote workers and providing guidelines for setting up a safe workspace could help prevent work-related injuries. Also, regularly training your staff on injury reporting practices can ensure a smooth claims process should an injury occur.

Common Workers’ Comp Claims for Remote Employees

Employee injuries can happen in a home office or remote location through no fault of an employee or employer, just like they might occur at the workplace. Below are some of the most common workers’ comp claims for remote employees and tips for decreasing the risk of these injuries occurring. 

Repetitive Use Injuries

Repetitive use injuries happen when an employee uses the same body parts and motions repeatedly throughout the day. Although not all remote jobs are desk jobs, many are, and with consistent desk use can come wrist, back, and neck injuries from several hours of desk work per day. 

For example, a person who types for several hours on a computer might experience severe carpal tunnel pain, while a customer service representative might develop neck pain from tilting their head to hold a phone while simultaneously using a computer. 

Workers may prevent some repetitive use injuries by using ergonomic desks, chairs, and accessories. A vertical mouse and ergonomic keyboard could prevent excess strain on wrists, while chairs with lumbar support could aid posture to curb back pain. Also, workers should take frequent breaks—at least once per hour—to stretch, walk, and move.

Some companies provide their remote workers with ergonomic equipment for their home offices, while others offer stipends for workers to purchase their own solutions.

Lifting Injuries

Lifting injuries are much more common in traditional workplace settings in which workers might need to use heavy equipment or move or lift boxes in storage spaces, but they can also happen in remote settings. For instance, moving a large desk or equipment for their home office space could result in a lifting injury affecting the back, shoulders, knees, or neck.

The onus of preventing lifting injuries generally lies on remote workers understanding the importance of proper lifting, like using the knees rather than the back to do most of the lifting and getting another person to help.

Still, employers can offer important safety information to remote workers during onboarding and annual training to ensure that all employees are on the same page when it comes to keeping themselves safe.

Slips or Falls

When a remote worker trips over a child’s toy or shoes left in the middle of the floor, the resulting injury may not qualify for workers’ comp, even if the employee was on the clock at the time. This is because the injury wasn’t related to the employee’s job.

However, if a remote worker carrying a box of work-related equipment to a storage area falls while walking down a small flight of steps, the resulting injury could be covered.

These accidental injuries can be difficult to prevent, as they can happen completely by chance. Still, ensuring that employees follow proper safety measures, like maintaining their workspace, wearing proper shoes, and keeping the floor free of obstacles, can benefit all parties.

Again, consider including this information in your remote workers’ onboarding process and safety training manuals.

Electrical Shocks

Electrical issues in the home or office space a remote worker uses can be another cause of injury. Electrical shocks and electrocutions can cause burns or nerve damage. These injuries can stem from having too many electronic items plugged into one outlet, using damaged cords, or securing power cords with staples.

In addition to including information about electric and fire safety in your onboarding and training processes, it could help to send occasional email reminders to remote workers to check their office setups and complete a quick safety assessment of their electrical components.

Transportation-Related Injuries

Remote workers who travel to clients or between offices for work run the risk of transportation-related injuries. If a worker becomes injured in a vehicle crash while traveling for work, they may qualify for workers’ comp.

Reducing the amount of travel remote workers must do is the best line of defense for travel-related injury prevention. Consider using digital collaboration tools and hosting virtual meetings and events as much as possible to keep remote workers connected.

If travel is a must, clearly define travel expectations for remote workers in your policies. Set a specific day for an employee to travel for business or determine specific places or distances an employee is authorized to travel to limit unnecessary trips.

Workers’ Comp For Remote Employees FAQ

Do part-time remote employees need workers’ comp?

Yes, part-time remote employees are eligible for workers’ comp, just like part-time onsite employees are. In most states, workers’ comp is required for any business with more than one employee, including employees working remotely. 

What are the penalties for not buying workers’ comp?

The penalties for not having workers’ comp lie solely on an employer. An employer without workers’ compensation can be fined and may face criminal charges. 

The exact penalties vary by state, with some states leveraging stricter punishments than others. For example, fines in California can reach up to $100,000, while Alaska requires businesses to pay $1,000 per day per employee for each day they don’t have workers’ comp coverage.

How much does workers’ comp cost?

Workers’ compensation costs vary based on the size of the company’s payroll, how many employees it has, its industry’s risk factors, chosen coverages, and other factors. Still, many small businesses can pay less than $100 a month for workers’ comp coverage.

A company’s initial cost may increase over time, depending on its claims history, a change in company payroll, or an increased industry risk.

Does workers’ comp cover employees who work from home?

Yes, workers’ comp coverage includes employees who work from home. However, at-home workers who are not official employees, like independent contractors and freelancers, are not eligible for workers’ comp.

Can an employee work from home while on workers’ comp?

In some cases, an employee may be able to work while on workers’ comp. This usually happens when a medical professional clears the worker for specific duties. If the worker was already working from home at the time of the injury, they should be able to continue working at home under the guidance of the overseeing medical professional. 

The Bottom Line with Workers’ Comp for Remote Employees

Where your employees work doesn’t affect workers’ comp. With the increasing number of people working remotely across numerous industries, workers’ compensation laws have evolved to include remote work situations.

The laws surrounding workers’ comp for remote employees vary by state. Generally, each state allows workers’ comp coverage for injuries resulting from a work-related task, regardless of whether the injury occurs in a company office or the employee’s home office while on the clock. 

Most companies with more than one employee must provide workers’ comp coverage to remote workers. Not only is having this insurance in the best interest of workers, but it’s also in the company’s best interest, saving it potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs and penalties from not having coverage.

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