COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate, possibly forever. As things have begun to return to some level of normalcy, several companies are slowly resuming their operations. This article looks at the possible impact of COVID-19 vaccines on the workforce, specifically in terms of the available workers’ compensation coverage.
Many businesses are putting policies in place requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before heading back to work. Some employers have reached an agreement with a health care provider to administer the vaccine safely. As a business owner, you may still be concerned about a potential liability issue if one of your employees suffers any side effects because of the vaccine. Technically, you will face less risk if you provide the vaccines through a third party than simply mandating that your employees get the vaccine. However, there are still a few gray areas where you may have to deal with a workers’ compensation liability issue.
If you arrange for a third party to administer the vaccines, they are considered voluntary. In this instance, you will not be responsible for any health care costs if your employee becomes ill. You will not be liable for the treatment because your employee volunteered to receive the vaccine.
According to the law, you are protected when your business partners with a third party for COVID-19 vaccines. You are providing a service and making things more convenient for your employees. You are not prioritizing the vaccine alongside your employee’s work, nor are you forcing your employees to get the vaccine or risk their employment. Your workers’ compensation coverage will not be affected if you are transparent with your employees that the vaccine is voluntary. However, if you pressurize your employees to get the vaccine and they receive the shot on the job, you may be held liable if they become ill. Their condition will be seen as work-related. In many states, any injuries arising from vaccines administered through a government-sanctioned vaccination program are covered through workers’ compensation.
Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act
Under the PREP Act, you may be eligible for liability immunity protections if you provide the vaccines onsite. Note that the COVID-19 vaccine must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Check whether you are considered as a “program planner” to be able to administer an onsite vaccination program.
Check Your State Laws
If you compulsorily require your employees to be vaccinated and they suffer some form of reaction, in that case, they will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This is beneficial for employers who have already paid for workers’ comp insurance as the insurance will cover the costs of such claims.
Other Things to Consider
Your employees may pursue benefits if they are injured on their way to work to receive the vaccine. They may feel entitled because you required them to receive the vaccine at a specific place and time. You also have to consider possible infections. Perhaps one of your employees gets COVID-19 before taking the vaccine due to interacting with an infected employee. If they can prove that they were infected on the premises while waiting to be vaccinated, you will be held liable.
While encouraging your employees to get vaccinated will help ensure that they are safe and healthy, you need to keep in mind the possibility of a reaction to the vaccine and have adequate coverage to meet such uncertainties. If you have any questions about your insurance coverage, contact the professionals at Chambers & Company Insurance Brokers. We are here for your business during this unusual time.