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The COVID-19 pandemic has proven challenging for businesses in many ways, and the impact on workers’ compensation claims could ultimately be one of the most significant. For many employers, the pandemic threatens to bring greater administrative burden and higher costs, while at the same time, causing anxiety among employees who are injured, either in pandemic-related work or other injuries.
Here, we’re going to look at some of the concerns that most businesses and workers have – whether workers’ compensation covers COVID-19 in the U.S., what processes are in place to determine whether COVID-19 cases are work-related, and the risk of other claims increasing in other work-related areas.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Amid the Pandemic
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has said that COVID-19 coronavirus qualifies as recordable in cases where a worker gets infected as a result of performing work-related duties. What does this mean? This new addition is subject to the same failure-to-record fines and rules as other workplace-related injuries and illnesses. Employers are required to determine whether a COVID-19 infection is work-related.
However, as of April 10th, 2020, the only employers who’ll be required to record COVID-19 infection cases are those in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions. All other employees are expected to implement the proper hygiene practices and only record cases when there’s evidence that the cases are work-related and the evidence was reasonably available to the employer.
According to Hasner Law, a workers’ compensation and injury law firm, understanding these new OSHA rules is vital for employers, and that’s why working with the right workers’ compensation lawyer or attorney is critical – see more information to know the difference.
Determining Whether COVID-19 Cases are Work-Related
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, employees face the growing risk of employees filing more worker’s compensation claims. While statues and case laws may vary by state, an employee will file a claim, so long as the infection or illness is occupational. That means that:
- The infection arises out of and occurs in the workplace and within the scope of employment.
- The infection proves to be the result of workplace exposure.
- The infection is directly related to the employee’s line of work, meaning the COVID-19 coronavirus presents a higher risk for particular workers or employees.
With more workers falling under the scope of those under a greater likelihood of exposure, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine whether a worker contracted the coronavirus in the workplace. Essential service workers, including those in the airline, transportation, and hospitality industries, are also under risk.
Concerns of direct contact with patients for medics and public safety workers or service providers interacting with medical care workers are also growing. Determining which COVID-19 cases may be compensable under each state’s workers’ compensation statutes and rules is set to evolve as the pandemic continues. Employers can take extra steps to ready their workplaces.
The Risk of Claims Increasing in Other Areas
Other than COVID-19 exposure, employers should also be aware of the risk of a potential increase in claims in other areas. For instance, telecommuting has created a whole new working dynamic that most employees were not prepared for. With this comes the growing mental stress and anxiety, distractions, and other issues that could create more problems.
The best way for employers to deal with this is to offer support systems for employees, communicate clearly, educate employees, and be transparent about their workers’ compensation process to help ease anxiety from COVID-19 cases. There’s also the financial aspect of workers losing their jobs and increasing claims for unemployment benefits.
Workers’ compensation systems are set to experience new lessons, just like they did during the recession and financial crisis of 2008. For employers, understanding the widespread challenges caused by the pandemic and how to help employees cope via safety training and orientation is vital. Working with experienced workers’ compensation attorneys is also critical during such unprecedented times.