Working from Home and WCB Coverage
Did you know that Workers’ Compensation coverage extends to employees that are working from home? As an employer, what are you doing to ensure your workers’ health and safety as well as protecting yourself from unwanted claims?
In March 2020 many employers were caught off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown. Businesses scrambled to figure out how to remain operational, many making a quick shift to employees working remotely from home and other temporary arrangements.
Regardless of how fast organizations were forced to adapt, employers’ obligations to provide a safe and healthy work environment under occupational health and safety and workers compensation legislation remained unchanged. The speed with which the lockdown was implemented did not afford employers the opportunity to establish essential policies, procedures and agreements to ensure appropriate health & safety standards were in place.
Even though the lockdown ended, restrictions were eased and businesses reopened, the remote workplace did not disappear. Now as we face the impact of the second wave of COVID-19 infections, including workers being sent home to quarantine, additional restrictions being imposed and potentially further lockdowns, the ability to work remotely will become increasingly important. As such, employers need to be prepared not only to protect their employees but to protect themselves.
The good news is that it is not too late for employers to take action and ensure that, moving forward, the appropriate guidelines for staff working off-site are in place. Key measures employers should take, if they haven’t already, are as follows:
- Establish a formal policy that not only covers employees currently working off-site but addresses any future arrangements as well.
- Develop a written agreement covering employer and employee responsibilities to be signed by employees currently working remotely and those preparing to work off-site.
- Perform periodic virtual workspace safety checks with off-site employees to ensure they are compliant with policy requirements.
- Create a work from home health and safety checklist as a reminder to off-site employees of their obligations to ensure their health and safety.
- Schedule video conference calls either individually, by department or company-wide to do a wellness check in with employees on a regular basis.
Fortunately the internet provides a wealth of information as a starting point. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS) has a Telework and Home Office Health and Safety Guide available to download for free until December 31st, 2020. The government of British Columbia offers information on Flexible Workspaces which includes a Telework Agreement template. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta provides an Employer Fact Sheet on Telecommuting that clearly outlines coverage for employees working from home. WorkSafeNB has an excellent checklist for Working Safely From Home.
Whether it is in response to the pandemic, quarantines and/or discovering new ways to operate, the reality is that telecommuting, working remotely and home office’s are here to stay. The way employers embrace this new work world will determine how efficient, effective and economically viable it will be.
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