Firms Liable for Telecommuters' Safety
QUESTION: As telecommuting is becoming more common, employers are concerned about their liability for injuries incurred by employees in their homes. What are an employer' s requirements for maintaining workers' compensation and insurance coverage on such employees?
ANSWER: Telecommuting has increased in recent years due to improved technology, a concern for the environment, and a desire to help employees balance work and family. The courts are starting to deal with issues raised by telecommuting, including an employer' s liability for employees injured at home while working for the employer, but there are no definitive rules on these issues yet.
Workers' compensation policies compensate employees for personal injuries covered by an accident arising out of and in the course of employment. Most workers' compensation policies will cover an employee for accidents incurred at home while the employee is working. This is consistent with court decisions covering employees for accidents incurred while performing errands out of the office for employers and during on-call time. However, an issue is raised when the employee has hazards in the home that may contribute to an injury. The best course of attack for an employer is to require employees to maintain a safe work environment at home to reduce the risk of injury. Some employers will even inspect the employee' s home office to ensure that basic requirements are met.
Other than workers' compensation coverage, employers are not required to maintain other insurance on telecommuters. Telecommuters can look to their homeowners insurance for coverage for accidents occurring at home. Employees who plan to work at home frequently should investigate the coverage options with the carrier.
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