AWC Blog

Workers’ Comp is Never “Off the Clock”

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Knowing when your employees are covered by your workers’ compensation insurance policy and when they are not should be pretty simple. When they’re on the job or doing something within the scope of their employment, benefits apply. Employees who aren’t on the clock shouldn’t receive benefits if they’re injured.

What sounds simple really isn’t. There are plenty of exceptions to the “off the clock” rule, and if your employee is injured even when they’re not clocked in and on the job, you could still be liable.

When Workers’ compensation Benefits Apply

Most states follow a simple rule for applying workers’ comp benefits that says “while in the course of employment,” if an employee is injured, their medical costs and lost wages will be covered. This rule means that, regardless of the physical location or the time of day, if an employee is performing an assigned job duty, their injury is covered under your workers’ compensation insurance policy.

What is excluded from this rule is any travel between work and home, before the start of and at the end of the workday. It’s known as the “going and coming” rule or the “portal to portal” rule. It’s during this time that most of the exceptions to workers’ compensation “off the clock” rules occur.

Workers’ Comp Exceptions While “Off the Clock”

When the employer benefits: Employees are covered while they are commuting to and from work while they are required to be away from their primary workplace or home in order to perform their assigned work duties, directly benefiting their employer. Example: Employees who are traveling for work and commuting to and from a hotel.

When the employer requests a special mission: While an employee is driving home from work or to work from home, they stop to drop off paperwork or pick up a much needed supply at the request of their employer, taking them off of their normal route to work and creating a “special mission.” If they are injured during that time, workers’ comp benefits apply. Example: Before coming to work, an employee picks up a report from the company accountant at the request of the manager.

Areas controlled by the employer outside of the workplace: In this scenario, the most common areas affected by this exclusion are sidewalks and parking lots. Any area controlled by an employer that an employee must use to get to or leave the workplace is considered an extension of the workplace. “Controlled” in this sense means the employer owns the area, pays a mortgage for it, pays taxes on it, pays a third party to maintain it, or has designated it a common area for employees to use. Example: An employee is struck in the parking lot designated for employees while leaving for the day.

Outside of regular business hours: This is a little less common, but when employment duties fall outside of regular business hours or the normal work hours of an employee, their injuries and accidents are covered by your workers’ compensation insurance policy. Example: Employees who work on-call after hours.

After-hours visits: This exclusion is a sticky situation for employers. If an employee visits the office or business location when they’re not scheduled to work, any injury they incur shouldn’t be covered under your workers’ comp policy unless the employer was aware the employee came in on their off-time and consented to their presence. Example: Employee visits fellow employee on their day off and waits in the building for the lunch hour to begin.

Not all of these situations can be avoided, but it helps to be aware of when an employee is covered by your workers’ comp policy in the event of an accident. It can help you make decisions about when to request a special trip for the office to pick up supplies or when to tell an off the clock employee it’s time to stop hanging out and go home.

If you’ve got questions about workers’ compensation or if you’d like a free quote for a new policy, contact us today.

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