T HE DEPARTMENT of Insurance has approved emergency workers’ compensation rules dealing with COVID-19 and California employers.

The rules were recommended by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau to bring fairness for employers’ experience rating during the COVID-19 pandemic amid shelter-athome orders and for dealing with claims of workers who contract COVID-19 on the job.

The following new rules took effect July 1:

1. Classification changes for staff working from home

As a result of the California stay-at-home order, many employers have altered employees’ duties so they can be accomplished from home, and often those duties are clerical-like in nature.

Under the rule, an employee can be assigned payroll classification code 8810 if:

  • Their duties meet the definition of a “clerical office employee” while working from home, and
  • Their payroll for the balance of the policy period is not assignable to a standard classification that specifically excludes clerical office employees.

2. Non-working, paid staff

Salaries paid to workers who are at home not working, yet still collecting a paycheck, will be excluded from payroll for workers’ comp premium calculation purposes when the payments are less than or
equal to the employee’s regular rate of pay.

There are a number of other classifications that already include clerical operations in their definitions, and those classifications would not be eligible for a change.

3. COVID-19-related claims

Under the emergency rules all workers’ comp claims directly arising from a diagnosis of COVID-19 will not be included in the calculation of your experience modification.

The Rating Bureau said in proposing this change that the since the occurrence of COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims are unlikely to be a strong predictor of future claim costs incurred by an employer, their inclusion in X-Mod calculations would not reflect an employer’s safety efforts and would not reflect the intended goal of the experience rating system.

The takeaway

These rules are effective during the time the stay-at-home order by Gov. Gavin Newsom is in effect, and 60 days after the order is lifted.

If you have employees who work from home, discuss with your insurance company or us whether you should change the class code to reflect their new duties. If you do reclassify employees or are paying workers who are not working, document those changes too, and keep careful records.

Also, worker COVID-19 claims will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under a second order by Newsom, but under these new rules, they will not count against your X-Mod.

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