Have you been wondering about the implications of what happens if one of your staff members contracts COVID-19 while working? Like your agency, businesses across the country have been struggling to keep their employees as safe as possible. However, there is still a chance that one of your caregivers or staff members could contract coronavirus while on the clock.
How will this pandemic affect workers’ compensation now and in the future? Only time will tell, as the situation is rapidly evolving. Here’s what you need to know.
Get to Know Your State Laws
Workers’ compensation varies from state to state, which means one answer is not necessarily the end-all when it comes to COVID-19 compensation cases. Currently, the United States Department of Labor is granting workers’ compensation to federal employees to contract COVID-19 while on the job. Similarly, many states already have compensation laws in effect that cover “occupational diseases”, though not “flu-type” of infections.
Healthcare workers, such as your agency’s caregivers, are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than other occupations. This could factor into a compensation claim as well. Many states have passed workers’ compensation legislation that allows compensation for healthcare workers, essential workers, and first responders if they are exposed to coronavirus while on the job.
Consult with your attorney in order to get to know what laws are currently in effect, as well as those that are in process, in your state so that you can be best prepared.
Depending on your state laws, you may see your workers’ compensation premiums increase. Further, your agency may be required to report instances of COVID-19 positive tests to your insurance company immediately, regardless if you know for certain that the employee was exposed while working. This can give your insurance company the heads up on any potential claims that might be filed.
Further, it is important to note that if an employee has been exposed to coronavirus while at work and takes 14 days off in order to quarantine while watching for symptoms, that time off is not necessarily covered via workers’ compensation. Some home care agencies are choosing to compensate employees in a quarantine situation (due to work exposure) on their own and without a compensation claim. If the employee then gets coronavirus while quarantining due to work exposure, those services and time lost will be a part of the workers’ compensation package.
Your agency should already be providing as much protection as possible for your caregivers and staff. Interventions you should already be using include:
- Supplying PPE for caregivers and staff in the office as well as in client homes
- Pre-screening clients and caregivers for potential exposure prior to each services appointment
- Screening caregivers and clients for fever at the beginning and end of each shift
- Offering extensive education and training for caregivers on COVID-19 infection control protocols
- Add documentation regarding client coronavirus-like symptoms each shift
- Ensure your agency is in the loop if a client tests positive for coronavirus
To get situation-specific or state-specific information about workers’ compensation in the time of COVID-19, work with your insurance company and your attorney. This is one more new thing we must all learn and adapt to, but we will persevere.