Allowing employees to work from home has definite perks for the small business owner, including promoting a satisfied workforce and cutting down on office space expenses. Amid all of the telecommuting fanfare, however, there are still potential liabilities to consider when you have home-based employees.
Work-from-home employees may expose your company to risks not currently covered by your small business insurance policy. Before you give employees the green light to forge their own paths in a home office, familiarize yourself with your responsibilities as a telecommuting boss.
What If an Employee Is Injured While Working from Home?
Accidents happen during work, and they can just as easily occur in the home. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), small business owners are responsible for providing employees with safe work environments. All home-based workers have the same workers’ compensation benefits as in-office employees. Cases regarding workers’ compensation have shown that the law tends to see the home office no differently from the office building or store front. For instance, in the 2011 case of Sandberg vs. J.C. Penney, the court eventually decided in the favour of an employee who tripped on her dog while retrieving fabric samples from her garage. She ended up receiving workers’ compensation because it was determined that she was in the process of working for her employer at the time she sustained the injury.
What If a Customer Visiting a Home Office Is Injured?
If anyone else besides your employee is injured in a home office, you still may be held liable. This may also apply if property owned by others is damaged in the home office setting. For instance, if a client comes to your employee’s home office and trips and drops his high-end camera, you may be held liable for its replacement. For these reasons, it’s important to have public liability insurance. Check with your insurance carrier to verify that such coverage applies to home offices.
Who is Responsible If a Telecommuting Employee Damages Property or Equipment?
Your small business insurance should cover general property owned by your company, such as cellphones, tablets and laptop computers, no matter where they are used. If work-related damage occurs to the employee’s home, however, your policy may not cover the loss, as most insurance plans are restricted to a particular place of business. Before such cases arise, it is imperative that employees check their homeowner’s insurance coverage regarding working from home.