Accommodating your employees while working remotely

As the country begins to slowly re-open the economy, many businesses will have employees that will continue to work from home. As employers consider which employees will be asked to return to the workplace and when, it is important to remember that they still have a duty to accommodate employees suffering from an occupational illness or injury who are working remotely.

Whether an employee works in an office, a factory, or from home, employers must always meet their obligations to support injured workers and accommodate their restrictions through appropriate modified duties wherever possible.

How does workers’ compensation coverage pertain to employees working from home?

Coverage under the various workers’ compensation boards extends to employees who are working remotely for as long as they are with the company. If an accident occurs while an employee is working from home, the board will typically look at the following factors:

  • When did it happen? (i.e. did the injury occur during regular work hours?)
  • Where did in happen? (i.e. did it happen in the usual place of work?)
  • What was the employee doing? (i.e. was the activity reasonably related to their employment?)

If an accident does occur at the home workplace, it is still important to report the incident within a timely manner. Just as employers have prevention strategies for the traditional workplace, they should also develop policies and best practices to help prevent and minimize accidents and injuries in the home workplace.

Home as the new workplace

As an employer, you remain obligated to ensure the health and safety of your workers when they work from home. Safety policies and procedures should continue to be upheld at home, with alterations as necessary to suit a remote environment. Employers should continue to consider potential hazards, such as ergonomics, electrical safety, slips and falls, and environmental factors, in addition to hazards that may not exist in a standard workplace, such as mental illness due to isolation.

In the event an employee is injured while working from home, the employer’s obligations as they pertain to modified duties and return to work remain the same. A physician’s assessments of the worker’s limitations and abilities should be compared to the possible tasks they are able to perform from home. As staff working remotely are likely already performing office duties are unable to change departments, so to speak, alternate accommodations may be difficult to come by if they are unable to perform their usual tasks.

It is important for employers to do all they can short of undue hardship to find meaningful and appropriate accommodations, in order to avoid incurring the costs associated with lost time.

Disability management and return to work.

Even though you might not see your remote employees on a regular basis, it is still your responsibility as an employer to offer them the same disability management and return to work services that you would offer an in-person employee.

Contact TeksMed today

If you are looking for health and safety resources or if you want help in facilitating return to work and accommodation for injured employees, we can help. Contact us today for a consultation.

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