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Do Work-From-Home Staff Increase Employer Risks?

Working from Home Workers’ Comp LiabilityAs more workers are granted the opportunity to work from home, legal exposures are being discovered by their employers. While many companies are taking a backseat approach to their Workers’ Comp coverage, this new work trend is posing some threats to existing NJ Workers’ Comp Policies for Professional Services.

The idea of “telework” has been in effect since the 1970s and today, nearly 20 percent of the workforce works remotely or from home, as reported by World at Work’s “2011 Survey on Workplace Flexibility.”  What’s more, the study found that 26.2 million workers in the United States directed some degree of business away from the office in 2010.

While having employees work from home saves money on renting out an office and obvious utility costs, this development has its own set of risks. For example, companies are not equipped to manage the nature of the claims resulting from working from home. Another concern is knowing whether or not the injury was caused by a work-related activity while at home and if the employee is being honest. However, risk management strategy to protect against potential claims isn’t as modern as employers would hope.

Matthew Schiff, management and employment attorney with Schiff & Hulbert in Chicago, explained that consideration of potential risks “comes up after something has already happened.” In turn, the employer could find that the existing policy does not cover home-based claims, proving that the workforce has changed pace and the risk management strategies have failed to accommodate the shift.

As this is a more recent development, there is a lack of claim activity which makes it difficult for employers to know what to prepare for. Further, the validity of some claims is difficult to prove. New employees who have not yet established credibility and trust within a company are not ideal candidates for remote workers, according to experts. Another tip for employers is only allowing salary employees  to work from home to avoid discrepancies with overtime pay.

To avoid such claims, experts recommend having consultants evaluate the employee’s workspace, desk, chairs, storage systems, etc. to ensure safety and comfort. For a fee, these home offices can be arranged in a way that reduces risk. Photographing or setting up a workspace can decrease Workers’ Compensation claims from a legal standpoint, as well.

If your company has a smaller budget, consider training your workers on proper home work practices and using materials safely. However, if an employee complains of any specific issue, a home visit may be required.

While working from home has its obvious benefits, the hurdle of telling people how to work in their own homes might become a legal concern in the future. However, addressing the issues is crucial to the success of remote workers.

At Associated Specialty Insurance Agency (ASIA), we are committed to solving your Workers’ Compensation needs. For more information on how to properly protect your company and its modern business practices throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, contact us today at (866) 679-7457.

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