An employer’s highest obligation is to keep their employees safe. It’s easy to control threats that appear in the workplace. But it’s a lot harder when forces intrude.
The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted worker safety. But you can protect your workers. Workers comp provides insurance protection to employees and employers alike.
But many employers are struggling to catch up to the fast-moving pandemic. They wonder, “Is COVID-19 protected by workers comp?”
You need the facts right away. Here is a quick guide to workers comp and COVID-19.
Does Workers Comp Cover COVID-19?
Workers compensation provides wage replacements and benefits to employees injured on the job. Some packages extend protections for diseases acquired in the line of duty. If a healthcare worker becomes sick from a patient, they can receive compensation.
But whether this provision applies to COVID-19 is unclear. Many states have laws regulating workers compensation, and they exclude payouts for “ordinary diseases of life.” They usually refer to cases of the common cold and flu, but they can refer to COVID-19.
Read the terms and conditions of your insurance carefully. See how they define occupational diseases and “ordinary diseases of life.” There may be some wiggle room for a COVID claim.
But it is hard to prove that you contracted COVID-19 in your workplace. Most people do not show symptoms for several days, meaning they could have interacted with any number of people. The difficulty means that many COVID claims will be turned down, even if the insurer allows claims to be made.
What Has My State Done?
Understanding your state laws can clarify if your package covers COVID-19. Read about general workers compensation laws, then read about laws related to COVID-19.
More than a dozen states have extended coverage to include COVID-19. Many of these laws limit extensions to certain employees. For instance, the state of Illinois has extended workers comp protections for police officers and firefighters.
Other states are working on extensions. More than two dozen states have bills in a legislative committee or sent to the governor. They are prone to revision, so keep up with your local news for updates.
The federal government has also passed workers compensation laws. The Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act extends permanent total disability benefits to first responders. If a public safety officer catches COVID, the law creates an automatic presumption that they contracted it in the line of duty.
Some politicians are including extensions for employees like retail workers. But if you are in a non-essential line of work, you should not expect extensions of coverage.
What Kind of Workers Comp Do You Get for COVID-19?
It is still a good idea to buy insurance. It improves employee morale, and it makes them feel more comfortable returning to the workplace.
Buy a package that offers payouts to employees with occupation-related illnesses. Insurers are moving fast, so you may be able to buy a package with COVID-19 payouts.
Buy a package that includes permanent partial disability coverage. Some people suffer from long COVID, which can result in cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. You may need to make accommodations, which your insurance can help with.
Filing a claim will be difficult, regardless of what package you buy. You need to adopt some procedures to cover your business completely.
You can expect delayed hearings since insurers will be receiving many claims at once. It may take months for you to get one.
Streamline your claim process. Provide your employees with the contact information of accountants and human resource professionals. Make sure they know how to file for a claim.
When you receive a hearing, you may have one through teleconference software. Prepare important paperwork well in advance. Practice using the software so you can answer questions promptly and deliberately.
Hospitals are being overrun with patients, so your workers will receive delayed treatment. Give them all accommodations you can give them.
What Else Should I Do?
Employees have already begun filing lawsuits against their employers for COVID-19 exposure. OSHA has a General Duty Clause, requiring employers to remove hazards that are likely to cause death or harm from the workspace.
Even if you buy workers comp, you should adopt safety measures. Following OSHA regulations will keep your employees from getting sick and diminish lawsuits if they do contract the virus.
Do not open your workplace unless absolutely necessary. Communicate with your employees through phone conversations and teleconferencing. Adopt stay-at-home measures until most of your employees are vaccinated.
All employees should cover their faces in the workplace. If your line of work involves close personal contact, you should provide personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE includes gloves, respirators, and goggles.
You should enforce social distancing. Place markers that are six feet apart. If you cannot distance your workers or customers, install barriers that prevent the spread of respiratory droplets.
Clean shared surfaces after each use. But make sure your employees do not get exposed to hazardous chemicals.
If an employee shows up to work with COVID symptoms, isolate them. Send them home right away. They should not come back until two weeks have passed from their last symptoms.
Workers Comp and COVID-19
Workers comp is a necessity in the modern workplace. But COVID-19 has forced the workplace to modernize very quickly.
Workers comp may or may not cover COVID cases. Many packages cover occupation-related illnesses, but it’s hard to prove if you contracted COVID from the workplace. Congress and some states have extended workers comp to essential workers, but non-essential employees remain uncovered.
Buy a package that includes protections for work-related illnesses. Prepare for a remote hearing. Follow OSHA guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing.
Go to the experts on COVID-19 and workers comp for business owners. National Workman’s Comp Solutions has more than 15 years of experience in selling workers comp to businesses. Request a free quote today.