What We Know Now
Now that Washington has a plan to phase into reopening, there are a few things that businesses need to do to prepare, whether you are reopening or increasing staff levels.
- Focus on Safety training. With employees having been out of the workforce for a few months, they likely have forgotten some previous training. We encourage businesses to treat all returning employees as “New Hires.” Re-train them on all safety hazards on the job site and policies and procedures for performing their jobs safely.
- Be sure to touch on social distance training/requirements and the use of all required PPE/social distancing efforts, so employees can return safely to the job site.
- If you have an employee that is currently off work, but on an open Workers’ Compensation claim; consider bringing them back to work. Most likely they are receiving time-loss benefits that are driving up your rates and driving down your refunds.
- When returning an employee to work under Workers’ Compensation, be sure to offer them reasonably continuous modified-duty work. Your ERNwest claims manager can help you with this. By using reasonably continuous language in your job offer, you will be protecting your business from the risk of future time loss if things were to take a turn for the worse, causing shut-downs and layoffs again.
COVID-19 & Workers’ Compensation
–Benefits from Labor and Industries
At this point L&I will only provide benefits to healthcare workers and first responders during the time they are quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 on the job. If a first responder or health care provider then tests positive, time loss and medical expenses will be paid like a normal claim. L&I has determined that COVID-19 claims will not impact rates or retro refunds, for more information please see the FAQ link in the section below.
–Frequently Asked Questions Answered
In response to questions from employers and their representatives, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has made certain policy decisions to provide some financial relief from the impact of allowed COVID-19 claims to state-funded employers. These decisions are outlined in a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) format. We also want you to be aware of premium reporting requirements under certain circumstances such as when a business has been closed as a result of the pandemic, yet the employer is continuing to pay their workers. And we’ve clarified that injured workers whose temporary, light duty ends are entitled to time-loss compensation. If you have any questions, please contact your account manager or retrospective rating representative.
FAQ / Answers for employers with workers’ compensation insurance through L&I
The Washington State Employment Security Department has put together a helpful visual for employers that give an overview of benefits. COVID-19 Scenarios and Benefits
For healthcare-related incidents or if your employees worked at a site where they are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 (e.g. a HVAC company working in a hospital):
- L&I will pay the employee “time loss” for a quarantine period of up to 14 days.
NOTE: The quarantine time loss will not be charged to you as an employer. This is important to companies that have a discounted workers’ compensation rate.
- If the employee tests positive, L&I will allow the claim.
–Time-Loss Compensation Benefits
L&I has confirmed, workers who were on temporary light-duty work but are now off due to business closures are eligible for time-loss compensation benefits through L&I. If you have worked with your ERNwest claims manager to offer a reasonable, continuous job rather than a temporary job, you may be protected; but as you can imagine, L&I’s policy has resulted in a drastic increase in benefits being paid through the workers’ compensation system.
There are several federal stimulus programs available to keep workers on the payroll. Utilizing these programs can help ensure that your employees are cared for during this uncertain time, and may also provide future savings in your L&I premiums if you can utilize a kept-on-salary strategy for workers who are otherwise eligible for time-loss compensation benefits. Ideally, the programs will keep your workforce intact and help you avoid an increase in the future cost of your workers’ comp premiums.
If you have any questions about the financial impact of a specific claim, please contact your ERNwest Claims Manager.
–Furloughs and Layoffs
For those companies that may be considering furloughs or layoffs, there are three quick items to consider:
- Have each employee fill out an exit questionnaire so you can document the employee’s physical health at the time of separation.
Download the exit questionnaire.
- Let ERNwest know if you are planning a lay off or furlough and if you are planning on laying off an employee on light-duty. NOTE: The good news is, if you followed ERNwest’s practices and offered a reasonably continuous job at the wage during the time of injury and you are doing a larger layoff (not just those on light-duty), these employees are unlikely to receive time loss.
- This is an uncomfortable time for everyone. Do everything in your power to care for your employees. It is everyone’s hope that sometime soon they will return to the workforce and you want your employees back healthy and strong.
–L&I Offering Employers Grace Period to Pay Workers’ Comp Premiums
L&I is providing emergency relief to help employers struggling to pay their workers’ compensation premiums during the coronavirus outbreak. It is offering a grace period for premium payments, along with payment plans for employers facing financial difficulties during the pandemic. Under this new offer, employers can request for their payment to be deferred for up to 90 days or can ask for a 90-day payment plan. Either way, the delayed payments will be penalty- and interest-free.
The agency wants to make sure businesses know about and consider taking advantage of this Employer Assistance Program.
“This is clearly a hard time for everyone. And restrictions and closures are making it very tough for businesses to make financial ends meet,” said Vickie Kennedy, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Insurance Services. “We’re trying to help by allowing employers to delay or spread out their payments at no additional cost to them. This will give businesses more time and allow them to stay in good standing.”
Payments for the first quarter of 2020 are due no later than April 30. To be eligible for this coronavirus-related assistance, employers must contact their L&I account manager if they know they won’t be able to make their quarterly premium payment. Account managers are available by phone at 360-902-4817.
Once employers are approved for the assistance program, L&I will waive late penalties and interest charges as long as qualifying businesses pay their premiums within 90 days. In some cases, the payment plan can be renegotiated if a business goes deeper into financial distress.
As part of the agreement, businesses must file their quarterly report on time, which is no later than April 30, 2020. L&I regional offices are closed to walk-in visits because of the outbreak, however, quarterly reports can be filed online through QuickFile.
For additional services, L&I customers can find the phone numbers for offices in local communities online or call the L&I Office of Information and Assistance at 360-902-5800.
COVID-19 Exposure and Claims
Please download the following guide that will provide information on how to exposure has occurred and employees are sent home for quarantine. This information could change in the future and we will keep you updated. COVID-19 and L&I (PDF)
COVID-19 Online Resources
June is National Safety Month
Given the current state of the world, the month will look a little different than past years. Instead of focusing on a single topic each week, the National Safety Council will provide real-time, relevant resources on a variety of topics for keeping workers safe in our new normal. Go to the National Safety Council website for more information.
Emergency Preparedness During
National Safety Month
It’s always important to take a proactive approach to safety in the workplace, but sometimes an emergency can arise at a moment’s notice. Taking some time to plan before an incident takes place can help you act quickly and ensure the safety of yourself and your co-workers. And, because the National Safety Council organizes National Safety Month every June, it’s a great time to review emergency preparedness in various workplace settings. Ensure you are ready for any emergency. Find more emergency response resources at Ready.gov/plan.
Much of the focus we’ve had on developing and implementing our community Safety programs has been sidetracked due to emphasis on the COVID-19 outbreak. ERNwest is very aware of the hardships that have been created and is aware that many of our communities are operating with minimal staffing as the virus takes its’ toll across the healthcare industry.
With this in mind, it is also important that we maintain focus around workplace incidents and safety issues that may surface. It’s up to leadership teams in every workplace to be aware of incidents and accident trends that may be developing due to a lack of training and/or supervision.
We are confident that we can help bring an end to the coronavirus outbreak we’re living with right now by providing reminders of the importance of Safety and Health programs. ERNwest has these Safety programs and information available at no additional cost to WHCA Retro members. Additionally, Loss Control staff are available to work with any healthcare facility to improve their safety performances. Use the links below to access a wealth of Safety information.
WHCA Pays You Back!
The association, through the Retro program, will reimburse up to $2,500 per year when you buy equipment needed to keep your staff working safely. Access the Safety Rebate Form for a complete list of covered items and for instructions to get started! Download the 2019-2020 Safety Rebate Form PDF
WHCA Safety Resources
Access WHCA and general safety resources. Learn more.
Select the dates below for more information about ERNwest-specific trainings and to register.
View a list of all ERNwest training
Administrator / Executive Director Training
Whether you are new to the Washington Health Care Association (WHCA), new to Retro, new to your position or just have questions, you’ll find helpful information about the benefits and requirements of WHCA Retro membership and how ERNwest can help you succeed with Washington Workers’ Compensation. | Welcome to WHCA Retro
Remember to report all incidents on the ERNwest website so that your claims manager is aware and can help guide you through the process. | ERNwest.com/report-an-incident
WHCA Retro Questions?
Stephanie Scheurich, WHCA Group Manager (253) 237-0837 | SScheurich@ernwest.com
WHCA Safety Questions?
Oscar Granger (253) 237-0819 | OGranger@ernwest.com
Darrell Beaman (Central/Eastern WA) (253) 237-0831 | DBeaman@ernwest.com