Beyond first responders — such as fire, police and medical personnel — states are grappling with determining if workers compensation insurance extends to workers deemed essential during a public health crisis. What impact does this debate have on your business and your workers compensation insurance coverage?
The effects of the 2020 COVID 19 shutdown on societies across the globe and business operations will be far-reaching, beyond the discovery and administration of any vaccine. One impact of the pandemic will be on workers compensation insurance, and the classification of essential versus non-essential workers for the purpose of receiving workers compensation insurance benefits.
The Basics Of Workers Compensation Insurance
Workers compensation insurance provides compensation and medical care for injury and illness suffered on the job (resulting from an accident or work-related incident contributing to an injury or illness). Benefits provided include:
A report by the National Council on Compensation Insurance showed that claims over a five-year period (through September 2018) decreased by 19 percent. An annual reduction in claims of 6 percent for 2017 and 2018 (and projected for 2019) may be challenged by the number of workers deemed essential and working during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Is Sickness Resulting from Being Deemed Essential Covered by Workers Compensation Insurance?
Front line workers who are responsible for maintaining the food supply line, transportation workers (i.e. bus drivers, route supervisors, maintenance workers) and those responsible for cleaning and janitorial services in facilities open during the crisis may not have the same protections under workers compensation insurance as those engaged in “public safety” work (i.e. police and fire, corrections workers, EMTs, nurses, and other healthcare workers). Public safety workers enjoy a presumption that an airborne illness such as the COVID 19 virus is a hazard associated with occupational exposure and would likely be covered by workers compensation insurance.
Other essential workers may have a greater burden placed upon them in proving that a sickness (or illness) — such as one arising from a pandemic virus — was the result of an occupational hazard. Whether such employees will receive the same level of protection as those in public safety is a matter of interpretation by the workers compensation insurance provider.
It is important as an employer to understand if your essential employees are covered and take preventative measures to reduce the potential for a workers compensation claim to be made.