Coronavirus in the Workplace

March 6, 2020

Coronavirus in the Workplace

As the coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as the media coverage surrounding it, continues to spread, we are receiving many questions from clients wondering what they can do to keep their employees safe as well as what is required of them from a liability stand point. To help, we have compiled the following information and resources.

Can coronavirus become a Work Comp claim?

Yes, if an employee contracts the virus during the scope or course of their job duties. For example, employers may be responsible in the following situations:

  • An employee travels or works overseas and contracts the illness.
  • An employee contracts the virus and infects coworkers in the office or on the job site.
  • An employee is assigned to work in a location with infected individuals and becomes infected.

In these scenarios, a Work Comp policy will typically cover lost time, permanent disability, medical expenses, and a death benefit as a result of the coronavirus.

What are my legal obligations as an employer?

Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, but are also subject to a number of legal requirements protecting workers. For example, employers must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in their approach to dealing with COVID-19. (see HR Compliance Bulletin for more detailed information)

Will our benefits plan cover a coronavirus diagnosis?

While the specific coverages will be dependent on the individual’s plan benefits, most health plans will cover the care an employee would receive if diagnosed with coronavirus, unless otherwise determined by state law or regulation. However, they will still be responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses that their plan requires.

Please view our Carrier Resources for Coronavirus t o see what benefits and resources your specific carrier is providing. For many carriers, utilizing their Telemedicine services is the best first step if you are concerned about symptoms.

Steps you can take to protect and prevent

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a dedicated website providing information to businesses and employers. The following actions are recommended:

  • Encourage sick employees to stay home
  • Be more flexible with your sick leave policies
  • Educate employees on preventive measures
  • Keep a good stock of supplies such as tissues, hand sanitizer, and soap
  • Perform routine cleaning of frequently touched areas
  • Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps. If employees are required to travel for business, stay up to date on the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for guidance.

Helpful Materials & Resources

OSHA Safety & Health Topics
CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019
World Health Organization: Advice for the Public
EDD: Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)