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The BWC Offers Employers Assistance Through COVID-19 Pandemic 

by Christen S. Hignett, Anthony "T.J." Jagoditz

Published: September, 2020

Submission: September, 2020

 



The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique issues in the workforce and to employers. Fortunately, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has implemented policies and programs over the last several months intended to reduce employer hardships.


Below are a few policies to note and verify have been applied to your business.


State-Fund Employer Installment Payments and PEO Monthly Payroll Reports and Premium Payments Were Deferred without Penalty or Change in Coverage Status


The BWC allowed premium installment payments for policy year 2020 to be deferred. Payments for the months of March, April, and May were allowed to be deferred until June 1, 2020, and payments for June, July, and August were allowed to be deferred until Sept. 1, 2020. Clients of Professional Employment Organizations (PEOs) were included in the option to defer payments. Any employer who elected to defer those payments should not have been charged a penalty or switched to a lapsed coverage status.


PEOs were also offered leniency in their monthly payroll reporting and premium payment requirements. During the months of March, April, May, June, and July, those monthly reports and payments were able to be deferred until Sept. 1, 2020. The reports and premiums for the month of August 2020, however, remain due on the normal due date of Sept. 15, 2020.


COVID-19 Claims May be Excluded from an Employer’s Experience Calculation


While it is unlikely most employers will see workers’ compensation claims allowed for COVID-19 and associated complications, it is a possibility for some. These claims are novel at this point, as are the associated costs (both short and long term). The BWC is considering potentially excluding the costs associated with COVID-19 claims from calculation in the employer’s experience calculation.


Some Safety Education and Training Requirements Were Waived and Discounts were Automatically Applied


The usual safety education and training requirements associated with several discount programs were waived, and the discounts should have been automatically applied for policy year July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. The programs to which an automatic discount were applied are as follows. Drug Free Safety Program, EM Cap Program, Grow Ohio, Industry Specific Safety Program, One Claim Program, and Policy Activity Rebate Program.


Some prospective safety and education training requirements can be completed online as well. Public employers participating in the One Claim or EM Cap Program for policy year Jan. 1, 2020 will be allowed to complete first-year training by completing three online hours by the last business day of September 2020. Private employers participating in Drug-Free Safety Program, One Claim, or EM Cap Program for policy year July 1, 2020 will be allowed to complete the usual in-person training online.


During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Employers May Classify Employees Who are Teleworking under A New Classification Code at True-Up


For employers who have operational employees who are teleworking, the BWC has created two new classification codes for those employees. Employers who wish to utilize this policy should contact the BWC and request the addition of the telecommuter code to their policy. For private employers, the code is 8871. For public employer taxing districts, the code is 9444.


There are several stipulations on the availability of these classification codes. These telecommuter code classifications may only be utilized if the employee is working completely from home. If the employee works at the employer’s place of business at all, the telecommuter code classification cannot be utilized. Additionally, if the employee is performing the same job at home he/she was performing at the employer’s place of business, the telecommuter code classification cannot be utilized.


These classification codes may only be utilized until Governor Mike DeWine’s State of Emergency Order has ended or until the employee returns to his/her previous job duties.


Emergency Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Paid Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Is Not Reportable for Premium Purposes


Ordinarily, regular paid sick leave is reportable to the BWC for premium purposes. However, emergency sick leave and expanded FMLA paid between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020 is not. This also covers leave paid to an employee caring for a child whose childcare facility or school is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.


Self-Insured Employers Were Granted a One-Time Waiver of Late Fees for Assessments That Were Due on Feb. 28, 2020


The due date for the assessment period of July 1, 2019 to Dec., 31, 2019 was Feb. 28, 2020. Ordinarily, payments received after that date would have resulted in a late fee being charged to the self-insured employer. However, in an effort to assist self-insured employers during the COVID-19 pandemic, late payment penalties were waived for that semi-annual period. If a penalty was paid by a self-insured employer, the BWC should have reimbursed the employer.


Hopefully, your business has been able to take advantage of one or more of these policies already. If you have any questions about the applicability of these policies, a call to the BWC, your third-party administrator, or Dinsmore attorney could prove to be quite beneficial.


 



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