The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has offered its perspective on the potential implications of coronavirus on the workers compensation industry.
Compensability: Workers comp laws provide compensation for “occupational diseases” that arise out of and in the course of employment, but many states exclude “ordinary diseases of life” (e.g., the common cold or flu). Also in question is whether time away from work during recovery would be considered “temporary disability” or just normal “sick time.” Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries on March 5 announced a policy change that allows healthcare workers and first responders to receive workers comp benefits if they are quarantined after being exposed to coronavirus on the job. The coverage will pay for medical testing, treatment expenses if a worker becomes ill or injured, and provide indemnity payments for those who cannot work if they are sick or quarantined. It remains to be seen if other states will take similar measures.
Economic Impact: Many employers have begun limiting nonessential travel, implementing telecommuting options and being more flexible on sick leave policies. Some companies have also cancelled large in-person industry conferences. The travel and hospitality sectors have already been hit hard, and other industries could also be impacted depending on changing consumer attitudes and behaviors. NCCI also sees a possible impact on employment levels and the general economy, which could lead to recession.