04 Jan Workers’ Comp and “Off The Clock” Employees
Workers’ compensation insurance usually covers employees when they’re injured in the workplace performing within the scope of their employment. Naturally you might also assume your policy does not cover “off the clock” employees. However, things aren’t always that simple.
Coming & Going Rule
If an employee travels for work and injures themselves, workers’ compensation coverage may apply. It protects employees, and the employer benefits by avoiding the burden of having to pay the associated medical costs and lost wages.
However, many exceptions exist for employees who don’t regularly travel for work, too. It is important that employers understand when employees may qualify for medical costs and lost wages, even if they aren’t in their workplace.
While workers’ compensation usually does not cover employees traveling to and from work, it makes an exception if the person performs duties that benefit the company.
Almost all exceptions occur when employees travel between home and work; before and after the normal work day. Travel to a client’s location could be a situation where an injury is off the clock, but workers’ compensation may still cover the injury.
When you send an employee to pick up supplies, deliver an envelope, or to do anything outside of the workplace for your company, they’re on a “special mission.” If they’re injured while performing their duties, they may qualify for benefits.
The same applies if your business decides to conduct a meeting in a restaurant or another outside venue or before, or after hours, and your employee incurs injuries. They’re performing a duty that benefits the company.
Employer-Controlled Common Areas
When an employee injures themselves in an area controlled by the employer, they may also qualify for benefits. Controlled areas are company-owned, taxed, and maintained by the business, or a third-party. These areas could include a parking lot, sidewalk, lunchroom, lounge, etc.
Legally, workers’ compensation considers these areas an extension of the workplace. Therefore, an employee who slips and falls on your sidewalk could receive benefits.
If you pay for employee breaks and a person goes for a jog at lunch and hurts their knee, they may also qualify for benefits even though it isn’t a work-related task. Payment may constitute employable time.
Beyond Regular Hours
Employees that work on-call may also qualify for benefits, even though the work occurs outside of regular business hours. If they’re injured while traveling to or from their job, workers’ compensation may cover their injuries and accidents, despite the coming and going rule.
Visiting Outside of Regular Work Hours
This exception often poses problems for employers, because employees may drop in to see fellow employees or to find out what’s going on outside of their regular work hours. This is common in sales offices, hospitality, and other highly-interactive industries.
Normally, they aren’t covered under your workers’ compensation policy unless they let you know they are there and you consent to their presence. If you’re aware and allow it, they could receive benefits.
Some of these situations are difficult to control, such as employee visits off-hours. However, awareness reduces claims. Off the clock employees may still be covered on your policy, the same as employees that are actively working.
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act describes a work-related injury, medical condition, or disease as anything done while performing duties for your company, so you may want to consider sending a courier the next time you need a package delivered, rather than sending an employee.