5 most frequently asked questions HR leaders get about workers' compensation

Providing workers' comp will benefit your company in the long run

5 most frequently asked questions HR leaders get about workers' compensation

Every HR leader should be well informed of workers’ compensation, especially with the number of inquiries they receive from employees – and it is expected for HR managers are expected to be able to answer even the most basic and common questions on it.

The article below will tackle the five most common questions employees have regarding workers’ compensation.

Read more: Here’s what 7 in 10 workers are worried about

Question 1: How does workers’ compensation works?

Workers’ compensation is a valuable benefit for employees to have. It is insurance that allows employees to receive cash benefits and/or medical assistance when they are injured or become ill due to their job. The goal of workers’ compensation is to provide financial and medical assistance that will allow employees to recover quicker from on-the-job injuries without any hindrances, seeing them return to work earlier.

Under the Californian Labor Code Section 3700, Californian employers are mandated to provide workers’ compensation benefits to their employees. The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) is responsible for overseeing the claims and systems regarding workers’ compensation insurance and benefits.

Companies are also required to provide an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) for their employees in accordance with the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973. The contents and policies of the program will vary between companies to better fit the need of the organization. The IIPP aims to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses to lower the cost for employers and minimize the risk to employees.

Question 2: Who is required to pay for workers’ compensation insurance?

Under Californian law, employers are required to pay for the insurance and will not be charged to the employee. When it comes to workers’ compensation insurance, employers are also obligated to respond to employees’ injury reports and in handling the employees’ claims of workers’ compensation from the beginning until the end.

All businesses in California that employ one or more employees are required to offer workers’ compensation. Business owners who have no employees under them may opt to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover themselves, but it is not a legal requirement.

Companies and employers must purchase workers’ compensation insurance either from a licensed insurance company, the State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund), or choose to self-insure their employees’ workers’ compensation. Companies can ask for assistance on workers’ compensation from a commercial broker-agent. They can help employers determine the best workers’ compensation insurance package that fits the needs of the company and can also answer any concerns and issues on the matter.

The DWC, however, does not provide workers’ compensation insurance for companies and businesses as they only handle workers’ compensation claims and reports.

Regarding insurance rates, the state does not regulate the cost of workers’ compensation insurance premium rates. The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau is the licensed statistical agent for the state insurance commissioner and only issues recommended rates – allowing insurance carriers to vary their rates from each other so long as they file it with the California Department of Insurance. The workers’ compensation rates are determined by a lot of factors such as the company’s industry, their history of work-related injuries, the employees’ salaries, and any other adjustments that need to be considered, such as special groups or programs employees are eligible for.

When an employee files a workers’ compensation claim, employers should conduct an appropriate and thorough investigation over what happened as companies cannot deny worker’s compensation benefits unless there is a valid reason to. Once the claim has been investigated, and all documents are correctly processed, the company can then pay the compensation with the approval of the insurance carrier.

Question 3: What does workers’ compensation cover?

Workers’ compensation covers different types of health-related issues and injuries. The insurance packages can cover medical expenses relating to the on-the-job injury or illness, such as the diagnosis and the necessary treatments. The insurance can cover partial and full disability of employees who take on alternate employment or are no longer able to work due to the crippling effects of the job-related injury. It also covers rehabilitation and retraining expenses needed for employees to return to work and even offers financial assistance to eligible family members for the loss of income they would incur should the employee die from on-the-job accidents.

It goes without saying that employers need to thoroughly explain to their employees the workers’ compensation package they offer and what is covered. Under the California Labor Code, companies are required to post a notice at their place of work to inform employees about their workers’ compensation. Other ways to spread awareness of workers’ compensation are through employment contracts and workers’ compensation pamphlets, emails, and during quick meetings.

Question 4: Can an employee be fired for filing workers’ compensation insurance?

Under California law, it is illegal for companies to terminate an employee for being out of work during a workers’ compensation claim – even more so for filing one. If they were wrongfully terminated for workers’ compensation, employees could even receive an additional $10,000 in benefits and back pay from the time they were fired.

The employer must comply if a physician or doctor allows the injured employee to return to work but for a light or moderate workload. The company can not force an employee to come back or to handle more work without the approval of the physician.

Question 5: What are the employee’s obligations regarding workers’ compensation?

Employees do have a part when it comes to workers’ compensation. It is the obligation of the employee to report the injury in a timely manner. Under California law, an employee has 30 days to report the injury to their supervisor to be eligible for the benefit. It is also the responsibility of the employee to seek and receive the appropriate medical treatment, fill out all the necessary claim forms in good faith, and coordinate with their employers every step of the way.

Read more: Six ways to improve your company’s compensation and benefits

Employers need to stay updated

Accidents are costly and cannot be avoided. Although it may seem like an additional expense that should be optional for companies to offer, providing workers’ compensation insurance can actually save the organization money in the long run. When an employee gets injured on the job, the employee could come after the company for negligence that could be significantly costly compared to the cost employers would have received if workers’ compensation covered them. 

Companies should also actively enact procedures and regulations that make the workspace safe for all employees. Finding new ways to improve the safety and cleanliness of the physical workspace as well as the flow of operations helps in keeping workplace accidents and illnesses low. Taking part in caring for employees in addition to offering workers’ compensation is also a great way to lower turnover rates and increase employee satisfaction.

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