CalNonprofits Insurance Services

Updates to California Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19

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"Updates to California Workers' Compensation"
CalNonprofits Insurance Services: Work Comp Update

These updates to California Workers’ Compensation add additional employer responsibilities to those discussed in our article, New COVID-19 Work Comp Rules.  Changes to California Workers’ Compensation laws related to COVID-19 were recently signed into law and will affect many employers, including nonprofit organizations.  With the changes come new employer responsibilities that nonprofits need to know as failure to meet the new requirements could be costly.  

There are three parts of the law that change employer responsibilities. One part of the law expanded some previously allowed benefits for “front line workers” (e.g. firefighters, EMT’s, qualifying employees providing direct care for patients within a health facility, etc.) that had been created under the Governor’s Executive Order in May, 2020. The second part of the law outlines benefits in the event of an outbreak for all workers, if there are 5 or more employees, and the third part of the law relates to employer requirements for exhausting paid sick leave benefits under FFCRA

California Workers’ Compensation: Important Things to Know for Front Line Workers 

Under this section of the law, front-line workers are presumed to have contracted COVID-19 at their place of employment if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and is defined as a front-line worker under the law.  

Employer Requirements for Front Line Workers: 
  • As soon as an employer knows that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, they should immediately provide the employee with a DWC-1 Claim form and get it back from the employee, as they may be required to submit the claim form back to the carrier within as little as 24 hours. We recommend you check with your Work Comp carrier on their required time frame for submitting DWC-1 claims.  
  • In addition, eligible front-line workers can receive benefits for up to 14 days after being terminated from employment. 

California Workers’ Compensation: Important Things to Know in the Event of an Outbreak 

The biggest change to the law is that the presumption now applies to employers with 5 or more workers (not required to be front line workers) in the event of an outbreak.   Basically, if there is an “outbreak”, and an employee working at a worksite becomes ill or dies from COVID-19 on or after July 6, 2020 – January 1,2023, it will be assumed to be work-related and covered by Workers’ Compensation. 

Benefits will be triggered in response to an “outbreak”.  An outbreak happens if within 14 days one of the following happens: 
  1. Employers with 100 employees or less AND 4 employees test positive for COVID-19, 
  1. Employers with more than 100 employees AND 4% of the employees who work at the worksite test positive for COVID-19, or 
  1. A place of employment location is closed by the order of qualifying officials/entities due to COVID-19 risk. 
Additional Requirements: 
  1. Employees working from home (unless performing home health care in their own home) and not at the employer’s place of business are excluded
  1. Employees visiting client homes for work may be covered – this area was not specifically addressed in the law. 

New Employer Responsibilities for California Workers Compensation

If an employee is eligible for paid sick leave benefits (such as those found under Families First Coronavirus Response Act – Emergency Paid Sick Leave {FFCRA}), they must first exhaust those benefits. This applies to both frontline workers and non-frontline workers in an outbreak. In the event of a potential outbreak, it is crucial that you work with your Workers’ Compensation company and report reasonably known positive COVID-19 tests within three business days of notification/discovery.  The insurance carrier will require specific information. They may provide you with a reporting form, which could be used to determine whether the organization qualifies for an outbreak. 

Failure to report can result in a penalty of up to $10,000.  Therefore, nonprofit employers should become familiar with the required forms and timeframes for filing claims. We recommend that your nonprofit incorporate these new requirements into their business continuity plan and document internal processes. This helps minimize risk of disruption to the organization should an outbreak occur. 

Check out our COVID-19 Resources page for guidance and information related to protecting your nonprofit mission.

Reference 

https://apps.thinkhr.com/en-us#!/comply   (ThinkHR) 

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB1159 (SB 1159) 

About the Author

  • Debbie Klug, Compliance and Research Administrator, CalNonprofits Insurance Services.

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