Tips for Workers’ Compensation Policyholders During COVID-19

Presented by: Acadia Insurance

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to adjust or reduce their operations.  Workers may have transitioned to working from home, having reduced hours, have been furloughed – some with or without pay, or have been laid off.

With this upheaval, it is important to maintain accurate payroll records to ensure you are charged appropriate premium for your Workers’ Compensation coverage. Workers’ Compensation policies are audited at the end of each policy term, and premiums will be adjusted based on your employee payroll and type of work performed over the course of the year.

In particular, make sure your records account for the following:

  • Any changes in payroll, including a reduction in staff or reduction in hours
  • If you have furloughed employees with pay during the business disruption, make sure to keep separate payroll records for these employees for the time they continue to be paid and are not working for you. Furloughed payroll will have a reduced or zero rate when used in the calculation of Workers’ Compensation premium, depending on state Workers’ Compensation rules.
  • If you have furloughed workers within the state of Massachusetts, Massachusetts has the additional requirement below:
    An employer who is making payments to paid furloughed workers must provide to their workers’ compensation carrier, within the later of 60 days of approval date of this rule or 25 days after the employer begins making payments to paid furloughed workers, a list of all paid furloughed employees, which shall also include the employee’s normal workers’ compensation classification, weekly wage, furloughed date, and anticipated date of return to work.

Tips for a Change in Operations
Many businesses are not able to run their typical operations because of states’ response to COVID-19 and, instead of closing, they may adapt their operations so they can maintain a flow of income. Other businesses have changed their operations to help respond to the pandemic by providing essential products. For example, many distillers have adjusted their operations to not only distill spirits but also to manufacture hand sanitizer to help with the shortage. If your business has had a material change in operations during COVID-19:

  • Contact your insurance agent to see if this change in operations could impact your how your Workers’ Compensation policy is priced.
  • Note changes in roles of your employees as part of your payroll reporting as they may be assigned to a different class code. Are employees engaging in work that is materially different from their prior role?

Maintain Workers’ Compensation Coverage
If you’ve had to make the difficult decision to lay off all employees during this time, it is important to maintain Workers’ Compensation coverage so you are protected when your business resumes operations. Maintaining accurate payroll records will ensure your premiums reflect your reduced business operations and staff during this period. More importantly, if you cancel your policy, you may find purchasing a new policy difficult or more costly when you resume operations as insurance carriers evaluate new customers on several factors, including whether the business has had continuous prior coverage in place.

Your insurance agent is an important professional resource who can help ensure your insurance keeps up with your business during this disruptive time. For more resources about managing your business during COVID-19, visit Acadia’s dedicated resource page https://www.acadiainsurance.com/coronavirus-covid-19/

Stop Leaks Before It’s Too Late

Fire might be a homeowner’s greatest fear, but some insurance company will tell you that water is the far more common cause of property damage, even if you don’t live in an area subject to flooding. And it can come from many sources: A failing water heater, a burst pipe, a broken supply line under your sink, a clogged toilet, or even a split hose connected to your washing machine.

Just as it’s essential to have a smoke detector in each of your home’s bedrooms and common areas, you’d be wise to install leak detectors in places where water damage could start: The laundry room, water heater closet, the bathroom, under your kitchen sink, and so on.

Water shut-off devices are installed by a plumber directly onto your water line, a flow-based water leak detection device monitors the flow of water throughout your home. If an unusual activity or flow of water is detected – probably caused by a leak somewhere in your plumbing or pipes – the device will alert you first and then shut off your water supply to help minimize damage.

Many insurance companies also offer a break on your home insurance if you install water leak detection systems.  A one-time investment can end up paying for itself over time.

 

 

Tips to Avoid Finacial Stress

Whether you worry about contracting COVID-19 or not, chances are you share in the financial stress felt by millions during the last few months.

There are steps you can take today to help put some of your fears to rest. But first, a look at why controlling stress is important.

Tips to manage stress

In the case of the pandemic, the CDC suggests strategies for relieving stress. These include meditating, volunteering, taking breaks from reading the news, eating well, exercising, and using counseling or therapy services if needed.

If you are currently experiencing cash flow challenges and haven’t done so already, reach out to your creditors, and any other financial institution with whom you do business to discuss payment leniency.

The financial checkup

Your next move is to review the money that comes in and goes out every month to make sure you have a firm handle on your cash flow situation to possibly uncover some ways to reduce expenses.

Investors should ensure that their portfolios are well-balanced and reflect their financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Many investors rely on guidance from a financial professional.

Retirees can create dependable income streams (Annuities, Pensions, in addition to Social Security) to help shelter themselves from volatility. Those in the accumulation phase can establish an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses held in cash.

While it’s critical to review your financial position, it’s imperative to also address your risk management and estate planning needs.

This includes Disability Insurance, to protect your income if you become too ill or injured to work. If you have coverage through your employer, make sure you’re absolutely certain how the plan works – what % of your income it would replace (60% is most common but can be less) and if it would be taxable. The last thing you need at that point is an unpleasant surprise.

Life insurance is also of critical importance, to protect those who are financially dependent upon you. Be sure to review the coverage you have in place (if any) and make sure it’s up to date. Many times, people set up coverage early on, but don’t update it as life events occur, such as marriage, children, buying a house, etc.

The same concept pertains to updating the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, insurance policies, and address overall Estate Planning needs.

Being proactive with your finances puts you back in the driver’s seat, which may not solve all your immediate challenges, but can reveal a path forward to restoring financial wellness and help to manage stress.

5 Summer Wellness Tips

Summer is an exciting time of the year that is typically filled with cookouts, outdoor activities, and other events.  To promote a happy, healthy summer, try following these five wellness tips:

  1. Drink plenty of water.  Dehydration in the summer months can make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.  To avoid symptoms of dehydration such as dizziness, weakness, and fatigue, try to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water throughout the day.
  2. Watch what you eat at summer cookouts.  Common cookout foods like burgers and hot dogs are full of fats that can make you feel lethargic.  Sticking to lighter more refreshing foods like fish, pasta salads and watermelon can give you more energy while still satisfying your appetite.
  3. Protect yourself from the sun.  Protect yourself from the harmfulness of UV rays by wearing protective clothing, staying in shaded areas during the sun’s highest points (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
  4. Exercise safely outside.  Exerting high amounts of energy in the heat raises your body temperature, making you more at risk for heat exhaustion and stroke.  Make sure to drink lots of water, wear breathable clothing and have healthy snacks to fuel your body.
  5. Take a vacation to prevent burnout.  Reduced productivity, exhaustion and decreased engagement are all symptoms of burnout.  Taking time away from your work responsibilities to get your mind and body in check is essential to keep up work performance and overall health.

Workers Compensation and COVID-19 Related Furlough Payments:

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance recently approved a new classification that will exempt COVID 19 related furlough payments to employees from Workers Compensation payroll. This means that furlough payments will not count as payroll when used to determine Workers Compensation premium. There are some very specific qualifiers for this program:

  1. The insurance carrier needs to be notified immediately if you intend to request that furlough payments be exempt from Workers Compensation payroll. We can assist you with this process. This new rule was approved on July 17th and insurance carriers need to be notified within 60 days of that date.
  2. Employers must have records listing furloughed employees, their normal Workers Compensation classification, weekly wage, furlough date and anticipated return.
  3. Furlough payments made between March 1st and December 30th are eligible. The program expires as of December 31st 2020.

Many other states have adopted similar provisions to exempt furlough payments from Workers Compensation payroll. Please contact your representative immediately if you believe that your policy will qualify for this program.