Tag Archives: work from home

Bring Certainty to Remote Injury Claims

The working world is changing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was gaining popularity as employees sought greater flexibility and as advances in telecommuting removed barriers. Some employers even offered work-from-home options as an incentive to attract and retain top talent, save money and sharpen their competitive edge. 

Since the pandemic, remote work has become a fact of life, and, like it or not, it’s here to stay. Even with vaccinations on the rise and many watching the horizon for a return to “normal” — or to the office — many workers will never return to a physical worksite. Employers who acknowledge the shift are developing and implementing plans to provide continued work-from-home options.

But what does this change mean for your organization when a worker gets hurt on the job?

It may seem that working from home would provide employees with a safe environment and low risk of injury, but, in truth, employers won’t always know what specific hazards exist in every worker’s home. The reality is that injuries occur all the time in any environment, at home just as they do in a conventional workplace.  

Evaluate

Workers’ compensation claims for injuries sustained in the home can and should be evaluated the same as any other industrial claim — but they still present their own unique challenges. While every state has its own laws and interpretations, compensable claims generally have these things in common: the injury must be work-related; it must have occurred in the course and scope of employment; and the injury or accident must arise out of job-related activities. A proper investigation can provide the details needed to make an accurate determination and ensure the appropriate benefits are administered.

There is no requirement that an injury must occur at a place of employment outside the home — such as a worksite, factory, warehouse or office — for a workers’ compensation claim to be compensable. What is required is to establish whether it arose out of employment (AOE) or the course of employment (COE). The goal of a compensability investigation is to establish if the reported injury occurred, if it occurred in the course and scope of employment or if it was non-industrial.

See also: Pressure to Innovate Shifts Priorities

AOE/COE Compensability Determination

To be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits — including medical treatments, disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation and death benefits — an injury or illness must have arisen out of employment (AOE) and occurred during the course of employment (COE).  

As a general rule, if an employee deviates from work activities benefiting their employer to activities for a personal benefit, any injury occurring during such deviation is generally not considered within the course and scope of employment and is therefore not covered. But once the employee returns from the deviation to work-related tasks for the benefit of the business, any injury that occurs after that point is typically covered. 

However, there are nuances when considering the work-from-home environment. Take lunch, for example. When an employee leaves the office for lunch, compensability is typically more straightforward for injuries sustained while away from the workplace. But when an at-home employee trips and falls while walking to the refrigerator for lunch, the question may be somewhat less clear-cut. 

Investigative Solutions

It is crucial to conduct an investigation early on in any claim to document the facts, gather/secure any potential evidence and identify any potential third-party liability. The investigation will seek to determine if an accident or incident occurred, if an injury was sustained, whether anything unusual or unexpected occurred and whether the incident caused or aggravated a medical condition. 

While an accident at a job site or office may benefit from reliable witnesses or security footage, at-home employees are often working alone and unsupervised. This means injury incidents often occur without reliable witnesses to corroborate accounts. 

Recorded Statement

Obtaining recorded statements is a key technique for thorough remote injury investigations. At-home injuries are often unwitnessed (or potential witnesses are likely family members), so investigators will assess the credibility of the claimant and any witnesses and secure their recorded statements. Investigations must rely heavily on claimant and witness statements bolstered by medical records, scene inspections and other investigative solutions.

Here are some critical details an investigator will verify:

  • The time and date of the incident
  • Whether the incident occurred within the employee’s routine working hours
  • The activity that preceded the injury
  • Exactly what work was being done at the time of the injury
  • The mechanism and nature of the injury 
  • Medical history and claim history

Confirming when the in-home worker took breaks and other corresponding details about their daily routine are also important pieces. In addition to determining whether the employee was legitimately working for the employer at the time of the injury, investigators will inquire further to ascertain if the employee was solely engaged in work-related activities or if there were any other activity or distractions involved. If a reported injury arose from playing with the dog between calls or consuming alcohol while listening to a training, these may be valid reasons to deny the claim. 

See also: Long-Haul COVID-19 Claims and WC

Subrogation Investigation

Subrogation potential can also be complicated with a remote employee injury. What if your employee’s injury was caused by a roommate or landlord negligence? Or, imagine that a claimant reports she sustained an injury at her home workstation as a result of a broken chair. It’s then essential to obtain all needed information about the chair, any prior complaints or defects, litigation involving the manufacturer and other facts required for a potential subrogation claim.

Make a Plan

Create policies and procedures specific to your telecommuting employees. Work-from-home agreements can help ensure everyone understands expectations around creating a safe environment and guidelines for the reporting of an injury and the investigation of a claim.

Cyber Tips for Work From Home

The global pandemic has brought forward an unprecedented rise in remote working worldwide. What was once considered a luxury offered to only a handful of employees has become an obligation for hundreds of millions of people. 

Yet, with this abrupt shift to working from home, are companies leaving themselves more exposed to online cybercrime threats? It seems so, as a massive 71% of business owners are expecting the increase in remote working to result in some sort of a cyber breach. To say the data privacy lawyers have got their hands full would be somewhat of an understatement!

With that said, here are some quick tips you can implement into your business so you can better protect both your company and employee data. 

Provide employees with basic security knowledge

Employee negligence remains the most significant threat of company data breaches, with 20% of all registered attacks occurring due to an employee mishap. Here are some of the main ways employees expose company data:

  • Phishing attacks one in every eight employees shares information on a phishing site.
  • Unprotected personal devices — 45% of business owners are concerned about a potential data breach occurring due to a security issue on an employee’s personal device. 
  • Poor password management — 73% of businesses are now running additional training for employees on how to remain safe when working remotely, with training focused on implementing better password management.
  • Using public Wi-Fi — 63% of employees admitted to using public Wi-Fi to access company emails and files, and a staggering 21% admitted to leaving a work device unattended in public while working remotely.

So what can you do to better protect your company data?

  • Amp up training on cybersecurity 
  • Make cybersecurity a priority for employees
  • Restrict the use of personal devices when accessing company data 
  • Encourage the use of proper password management
  • Forbid employees from accessing company data while using public Wi-Fi

See also: Navigating Security in the Remote Paradigm

Provide your people with VPN access

In the wake of the current global situation, 79% of business owners have decided to increase their cybersecurity procedures to manage high volumes of remote access. One of the leading ways of doing this was by giving employees access to a highly encrypted VPN.

If you aren’t already with what a VPN is, it’s basically a service that allows you to create a secure and encrypted connection between any of your devices and the internet server. It creates an encrypted tunnel for all of the data transmissions to be sent and received through, and thus it makes it extremely difficult for hackers to intercept. These days, running a VPN is becoming a necessity as cybercrime rates continue to increase, especially as they are relatively cheap and easy to use. Companies that use a VPN provider will likely continue to do so even after the pandemic is over. 

Run a password audit

A password security audit is an excellent way for you to test the strength of your employees’ passwords and how they would fare against an attack. A thorough audit should help uncover weak passwords and also provides an excellent opportunity to further educate staff on “password hygiene,” especially when working remotely.

You should also consider investing in a password manager for your employees, which will massively reduce the risk of a successful password attack. 

Password managers work by creating a unique password for each site that your employee visits. The passwords they generate are highly secure and typically consist of an extremely long alphanumeric sequence that is next to impossible to guess. 

Use an MDM/EMM solution

Mobile device management (MDM) or enterprise mobility management (EMM) is a set of technology, processes and policies that help to bolster the security of corporate and employee-owned devices within your organization. 

In short, an MDM solution manages the features on the mobile device, whereas an EMM solution manages the entire device. Both are great ways to fortify company data security when employees are working remotely, regardless of whether they are company devices or employee-owned. These solutions allow you to do things such as:

  • Enforce the use of security policies on devices
  • Remotely control devices
  • Track the device location in real time
  • Wipe the device when reported lost or stolen

Foster community and care for employees

It’s important to remember that company data is not the only data at risk during a breach. Most companies are required to hold sensitive information about their employees, such as their date of birth, address and Social Security number. This information is a prime target for hackers looking to commit identity fraud, and you must protect your employees’ data to the best of your ability. 

After all, employees are putting their faith in you the same way you put your faith and trust in them. This is why it’s a great idea to foster a sense of community and care for employees to create an atmosphere where everyone is committed to taking care of each other’s online security. 

As always, the best way to do this is through education, so make sure you take the time to set up training sessions and encourage participation where possible.

Provide clear guidance and encourage communication

Last but not least, you must make cybersecurity a part of your company policy. Given that employee negligence is still one of the biggest causes of breaches, you must put steps in place to limit the likelihood of such an event.

If possible, lay out clear company guidelines on what is expected of your employees, including best practices such as:

  • Avoid opening pop-ups and unknown emails
  • Use a strong password (preferably a unique one for each site)
  • Only connect to secure Wi-Fi 
  • Use a VPN where possible
  • Enable firewall protection at home and at work
  • Keep antivirus and system software up to date
  • Back up data regularly

See also: Time to Focus on Cyber Resilience

Finally, it’s important to encourage communication around cybersecurity incidents. If an employee suspects there has been a breach or has located a potential threat/weakness, make sure the employee has a clear channel to communicate concerns.

Surging Costs of Cyber Claims

External attacks on companies result in the most expensive cyber insurance losses, but employee mistakes and technical problems are the most frequent generator of claims by number, according to a new report from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, Managing The Impact Of Increasing Interconnectivity – Trends In Cyber Risk. The study analyzes 1,736 cyber-related insurance claims valued at $770 million involving AGCS and other insurers from 2015 to 2020.

The number of cyber insurance claims AGCS has been notified of has steadily risen over the last few years, up from 77 in 2016, when cyber was a relatively new line of insurance, to 809 in 2019. In 2020, AGCS has already seen 770 claims in the first three quarters. This steady increase in claims has been driven, in part, by the growth of the global cyber insurance market, which is currently estimated to be $7 billion, according to Munich Re

AGCS started offering cyber insurance in 2013 and, in 2019, generated more than EUR 100 million in gross written premium in this segment. There has been a 70%-plus increase in the average cost of cybercrime to an organization over five years to $13 million and a 60%-plus increase in the average number of security breaches.

Losses resulting from external incidents, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks or phishing and malware/ransomware campaigns, account for the majority of the value of claims analyzed (85%), according to the report, followed by malicious internal actions (9%) – which are infrequent but can be costly. Accidental internal incidents, such as employee errors while undertaking daily responsibilities, IT or platform outages, systems and software migration problems or loss of data, account for over half of cyber claims analyzed by number (54%), but, often, the financial impact of these is limited compared with cybercrime. However, losses can quickly escalate in the case of more serious incidents.

The cyber risk environment is not expected to become any easier in the future. Businesses and insurers are facing a number of challenges, such as the prospect of more expensive business interruptions, the rising frequency of ransomware incidents, more costly consequences of larger data breaches given more robust regulation and litigation, and the impact from the playing out of political differences in cyber space through state-sponsored attacks. 

The huge rise in remote working due to the coronavirus pandemic is also an issue. Displaced workforces create opportunities for cyber criminals to gain access to networks and sensitive information. Malware and ransomware incidents are already reported to have increased by more than a third since the start of 2020, while coronavirus-themed online scams and phishing campaigns about the pandemic continue. At the same time, the potential impact from human error or technical failure incidents may also be heightened. 

While exposures are rising, the COVID-19 outbreak cannot yet be said to be a direct cause of cyber-related claims. AGCS has seen the first few cyber claims that can be indirectly attributed to the COVID-19 landscape, including ransomware attacks that can be linked to the shift to more remote working. However, it’s too early to confirm a broader trend.

See also: The Missing Tool for Cyber Resilience

Ransomware threats surge

Already high in frequency, ransomware incidents are becoming more damaging, increasingly targeting large companies with sophisticated attacks and hefty extortion demands. There were nearly half a million ransomware incidents reported globally last year, costing organizations at least $6.3 billion in ransom demands alone. Total costs associated with dealing with these incidents are estimated to be well in excess of $100 billion.

Business interruption and digital supply chain vulnerability growing

Business interruption (BI) following a cyber incident has become a major concern for business. Analysis of cyber claims by AGCS shows that BI is the main cost driver in the majority of cases. Whether ransomware, human error or a technical fault, the loss of critical systems or data can bring an organization to its knees in today’s digitalized economy. 

Dependency on digital supply chains – both for the delivery of services and the supply of goods brings numerous benefits. Shared technology-based platforms enable data to be exchanged between parties, automate administrative tasks and transport products on demand. However, such platforms can potentially create a chain reaction ensuring a BI cascades through a whole sector. If a platform is unavailable due to a technical glitch or cyber event, it could bring large BI losses for multiple companies that all rely and share the same system.

Data breaches and state-sponsored attacks

The cost of dealing with a large data breach is rising as IT systems and cyber events become more complex, and with the growth in cloud and third-party services. Data privacy regulation, which has recently been tightened in many countries, is also a key factor driving cost, as are growing third-party liability and the prospect of class action litigation. So-called mega data breaches (involving more than one million records) are more frequent and expensive, now costing $50 million on average, up 20% over 2019.

In addition, the impact of the increasing involvement of nation states in cyber-attacks is a growing concern. Major events like elections and COVID-19 present significant opportunities. During 2020, Google said it has had to block over 11,000 government-sponsored potential cyber-attacks per quarter. Recent years have seen critical infrastructure, such as ports and terminals and oil and gas installations hit by cyber-attacks and ransomware campaigns.

Prepare, practice and prevent

Preparation and training of employees can significantly reduce the consequences of a cyber event, especially in phishing and business email compromise schemes, which can often involve human error. It can also help mitigate ransomware attacks, although maintaining secure backups can limit damage. Cross-sector exchange and cooperation among companies is also key when it comes to defying highly commercially organized cybercrime, developing joint security standards and improving cyber resilience. 

See also: Essential Steps for Cyber Insurance

The COVID-19 landscape brings new challenges. With home-working widespread, security around access and authentication points is critical, but organizations should also ensure there is sufficient network capacity as this can have a significant impact on lost income if there is an outage. 

For more key takeaways from the report, please visit this page.

3 Silver Linings From COVID-19

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, insurers can seize opportunities from the unexpected silver linings that have appeared. The sudden, widespread case study in remote working has validated the forecasts and long-held views of insurtechs. Insurance, more than almost any other industry, is positioned to thrive in the virtual world as the need for large processing claims centers and customer service hubs vanishes. 

The pandemic forced openness to a change in mindset, and this flexibility was a prerequisite for the bright spots that ensued. A recent survey found that 76% of employees expect to work more flexibly even after restrictions ease, and 67% feel they are more or equally productive from home. In the post-pandemic world, as insurers rethink their work model, they will be confronted with a crucial choice: whether to keep that openness to change or revert to old ways of thinking.

Here are some of the silver linings we’ve seen in the insurance industry.

Increased access to executives and breaking of silos

Across the industry, executive teams and other teams within organizations are collaborating more closely than ever, meeting more frequently and making quicker decisions. As the pandemic took hold, document-sharing systems and other collaboration tools were rolled out quickly across enterprises, with IT, legal, communications and HR departments working together to a degree not seen before. Policies such as procuring headsets and chairs so that people could have comfortable home office setups were enacted swiftly. Of employees working remotely, 40% say they have received the most employer support in the form of digital tools and software, while 39% cite line manager check-ins with employees. It will be important for insurers to maintain these levels of connectivity and collaboration rather than allowing them to be anomalies of the pandemic.  

Innovation realized faster

A pre-pandemic innovation session was as much about the physical space and gathering of people in one location as it was about innovation itself. Some insurers had even moved to rescind their work-from-home policies and push their people into collaboration spaces. All of that has given way to a more pragmatic approach. Now, though a certain amount of lead time still exists, multiple innovation sessions can occur in a shorter period. This is an imperative, as the ability to continue innovating quickly is key to meeting high and changing customer expectations. Research has found that remote workers not only are more highly engaged, but also more likely than their office colleagues to consider their workplaces innovative.

Better engagement across geographies

Teams are collaborating much more in the virtual environment, which has leveled the playing field across offices — and research backs up the benefits. One study found that employees who work from home averaged an extra productive day a week, had 50% reduced role attrition, took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days and took less time off. Another study found that full-time employees working from home have been “optimistic adapters” – meaning they’ve demonstrated strong psychological capacity based on feeling in control of their future, and have dealt better with being locked down than other workers. And 43% of employees in that same survey said they have enjoyed a better work-life balance.

Still, evidence shows that there are some people for whom these silver linings don’t exist. Executives have cited an increase in employer relations cases during the pandemic, underscoring the idea that those cohorts of the employee population who were isolated in the pre-remote work environment are even more isolated now. As an example, 41% of Gen Z respondents in a recent survey said they are struggling with having limited private space and family. Managers may not be as adept at mitigating difficult situations as they would be if they saw problems unfold in person. Leaders will need to redouble efforts to identify employees who aren’t assimilated into the company’s culture, measure the extent and produce interventions to close those gaps. 

See also: A New Boom for Life Insurance?

The longer we go on in a virtual environment, the greater the tendencies people have to revert to old behaviors or fall back into old roles. But insurers are poised to thrive if they document the positives that have arisen during this time, chronicle how they’ve come about and who has modeled best behaviors and then hard-wire those into their cultural dynamics and operating model. Those that do can turn the accidental silver linings of the pandemic into a purposeful program of meaningful change and better business outcomes.

Six Things Newsletter | August 11, 2020

COVID-19: The Long Slog Ahead

Paul Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of ITL

While sorting through the latest studies and projections about the path of the coronavirus this past week, I was hit in the face with a veritable two-by-four by a piece in Medium by my old friend and colleague Sam Hill. Sam, an all-around smart guy who may be known to some of you because of some high-impact consulting he’s done in the insurance world, writes that, even under the best of scenarios, we’re probably looking at the end of 2021 before the world might return to normal.

Let that sink in for a minute. More than 16 more months of this, in one form or another… continue reading >

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