In response to Governor DeWine’s stay at home order and COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the Industrial Commission is now conducting many hearings by telephone, including hearings involving the following issues: initial allowance of claim, additional allowance, temporary total disability, termination of temporary total disability, wage loss, permanent total, and permanent partial disability. Parties, representatives and counsel have been calling into the IC to participate in telephone hearings, but this has caused delays and confusion. The IC recently adopted new telephone hearing processes and are scheduled to begin on April 27, 2020. The Industrial Commission will provide, on its hearing notices, a telephone number and access code for parties, representatives and counsel to call in order to participate.
The BWC Employer Services Division has announced it will implement two changes in payroll reporting requirements as a result of COVID-19. These changes may impact how you will report payroll for the upcoming (policy year 2019) true-up period:
1. Emergency sick leave and expanded FMLA paid to employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will not be reportable to BWC for premium purposes
2. Employers are permitted to report operational staff currently teleworking (as a result of Governor DeWine’s stay at home order) to class code 8871- Clerical Telecommuter during a declared state of emergency. This will ease the economic impact of the COVID-19 state of emergency on the Ohio business community.
See BWC FAQs page.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is postponing this year’s biennial open-enrollment period for employers to select a managed care organization (MCO) to medically manage workplace injuries. BWC will continue to publish its annual MCO Report Card, which will be available by the end of April 2020 on BWC’s website.
The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will send up to $1.6 billion in dividends to Ohio state fund employers to ease the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The BWC expects it will begin mailing checks to employers in late April 2020. The BWC expects this dividend to equal approximately 100% of the premiums employers paid in policy year 2018. The bureau will apply the dividend to an employer’s outstanding balances first, including the recent installment deferrals. Any amounts exceeding outstanding balances will be sent to the employer. See BWC FAQs page.
Although there have been proposed bills creating a presumption that COVID-19 is work related for health care workers, first responders, and potentially grocery store workers, these bills have not been passed by the Ohio Legislature.
If an employee contracts COVID-19, there is no presumption that it was contracted in the course of and arising out of employment. Whether the illness is compensable depends on how it was contracted and the nature of the employee’s occupation. The occupational disease analysis applies to COVID-19. Generally, communicable diseases like COVID-19 are not workers’ compensation claims because people are exposed in a variety of ways, and few jobs have a hazard or risk of getting the diseases in a greater degree or a different manner than the general public. However, if the job that poses a special hazard or risk and COVID-19 is contracted from the work exposure, BWC may allow the claim. See BWC FAQs page.