COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Update

Denise GillinNews, Risk Management

By Lisa Yelovich, Master Claim Specialist . March 25, 2020

As we are all aware, the novel coronavirus or “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated as COVID-19), is upon us, and employers and employees alike are seeking direction as to how to navigate this serious health risk.

Many of you may have received information from your workers’ compensation medical provider panel physicians.  Those of you who work with WORKNET Occupational Medicine, for example, received their March 3, 2020 communication regarding their current position on COVID-19 testing. They suggest following the guidelines as based upon the recommendations of the CDC and World Health Organization, (listed below for your reference). We expect other medical providers and facilities are following the same recommendations – check if you have not heard from them.

COVID-19 is now an established communicable disease. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, it is very difficult to prove that a communicable disease came specifically from a workplace exposure. We liken it to the flu and other viruses a person can pick up virtually anywhere. Due to the length of time from exposure to actual onset of the disease, it is nearly impossible to establish and/or track a direct correlation to any one specific source. If that correlation cannot be made, the claim for workers’ compensation benefits would be denied.

Murray’s position as a TPA and that of most insurance companies is to fully investigate the details of each claim and determine compensability of any COVID-19 claim on a case-by-case basis. As employers you must do the same in order to determine where, when, and how your employee may have become exposed on the job. Your adjuster will review and discuss with you the facts of the case and the details of the investigations and work with you to determine the best course of action.

Beyond the scope of workers’ compensation, there are other employment policy considerations when facing COVID-19 exposure. They may include FMLA, ADA, short and long term disability policies, and general leave policies that include PTO, sick and vacation time. We urge you to discuss your current policies and procedures with your employment attorney and work to come up with a policy that will address this current health risk.

Note the following links; bookmark these pages so you can go back to them frequently for the latest updates and information concerning the COVID-19 crisis.

Murray – COVID-19 for Businesses and Individuals

Cipriani & Werner, PC – C&W Journal

Pennsylvania Department of Health

OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration

CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

WorkNet Coronavirus Client Guidance

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