The coronavirus pandemic has facilitated a huge shift in where people work. Both employers and employees are seeing the benefits of working remotely. What was a temporary solution in 2020 has fast-tracked to become an anticipated benefit for employment in many industries. As a result, it’s important for businesses to examine the liability risks involved in remote workstations so that both you and your employee are protected.
In October of 2020 the American Trends Panel of Pew Research interviewed 10,332 American workers who were then working at home. They discovered that of workers whose job duties could be performed at home, only 20% did any at-home work before the pandemic, but 71% were working at home after the pandemic. The survey also revealed that 54% of workers whose work can be done remotely hoped to continue working at home after the pandemic is over.
How does working at home affect productivity? These figures are the result of interviews with workers, not with managers, but they are telling:
Your employee benefits package, of course, is a strong motivator for keeping workers focused on their jobs. You know the importance of insurance to your employees to keep them on the job. But what about the insurance your company needs for the hazards of having employees work at home?
Here are some employer liabilities for at-home workers you may not have considered. It's not a very long checklist. There are just two items. But these two hazards can have a huge impact on your company.
An employee's illness or injury "arising out of" or "occurring in the course" of work activities is covered by worker compensation, even if it arises out of or occurs in the course of work done at home. The courts have found that the fact that you don't control the conditions of your employee's home is irrelevant. Your company is responsible for providing a safe work environment no matter where your employee works.
Here are some examples of worker compensation claims that can come up with telecommuters.
If that makes you do a double take, consider how the courts could assess this situation. Your worker was at work immediately before taking a prescribed break. Your worker had a reasonable expectation of being able to have a cup of coffee on break. Your worker wasn't doing anything unusually hazardous and intended to return to work immediately after the break. There is a high probability that a court would find you and your insurance company liable for worker comp in this situation.
The other area of risk for companies that permit teleworking is cybersecurity. Your company is liable for keeping sensitive data about your vendors and clients secure. You don't want a hack attack revealing surety bond details, credit reports, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and tax IDs not only of your own company but also of your business contacts, who could have legal recourse against you.
It's best to issue computers for home use with the expectation that they will be used strictly for business purposes. But if you can't do that, at least make sure that your employees use the latest security software and virtual private networks to keep information secure.
Don't forget to add cybersecurity to your insurance checklist. Winter-Dent is always available to help you assess your changing insurance needs. If you have workers working at home and you haven't updated your insurance lately, give us a call.