In Belgium, all employers are obliged to insure their employees for the risk of accidents at work. They must do so by subscribing to a policy with an insurance company. As we all know, employees must report every accident they have at work – or on the way to or from work – to their employer. The employer is obliged to report the accident to its insurance company within eight days. The insurance company will then decide whether to recognise the accident as an accident at work.
But … what about the ever-changing work environment? And especially the ones that escalated very quickly due to ‘the latest’ circumstances. Because a lot of employees are working at home now, at least a couple of days per week. So, are ‘accidents at work’ now ‘accidents at home’? And what about the travel between work and home? And outdoor lunchbreaks? Or students performing a task on the work floor as part of their curriculum. We will learn that many insurers are changing their policies accordingly !
Begin at the beginning …
The law on accidents at work of April 10, 1971, requires any private sector employer who employs personnel for remuneration to take out insurance against accidents at work. For there to be an accident at work, several conditions are required:
– the accident must take place during and within the framework of the performance of the employment contract. It goes without saying that an accident at work must be linked to the professional activity of the member of staff. This does not mean, however, that an accident at work must happen in the workplace. It can also perfectly well occur outside of traditional working hours when the authority of superiors remains in effect.
– The accident occurs following the performance of the work.
– The accident can also occur on the normal journey to work (back and forth).
– The accident must be sudden, and the cause must be external.
– The accident must cause an injury. It does not have to be a physical injury, though. Mental injury can also, in certain cases, be considered as an accident at work.
But what if a company can’t find an insurer? Then the solution comes from the RDPAT (FR)/MPRAO (NL) Committee. It was created to offer an insurance solution to employers who can’t find or no longer find an occupational accident insurer on the market. More information? Check www.ao-comite-at.be. Also, for the ones that need car insurance and can’t find it through the usual channels, this website offers adequate help.
Since January 1st, 2020, the law on accidents at work has been amended. The new points bring more clarity to the complex regulatory environment, such as the conditions relating to learning at the workplace and occasional teleworking.
- Better protection in the learning workplace
Since January 1st, 2020, the law on work accidents was amended for ‘small statutes’, i.e., people who perform work (paid or unpaid) as part of their professional training (internship agreement, work-study courses, etc.). From now on, these people will be automatically covered if they are victims of an accident at work.
- Occasional – and structural – teleworking
In recent times, the residence of a very large number of people suddenly became the place of work, in the context of occasional teleworking – that which is not part of the normal performance of the employment contract.
The possibility of occasional teleworking is considered a right for the worker but remains subject to the approval of the employer. Teleworking can be requested ‘in case of force majeure’ as soon as the worker is prevented from performing work on the premises of the company for circumstances beyond his control. Recently, we learned that this force majeure does not even have to be invoked by the worker and that the employer no longer has the right to oppose it, at least if a government makes that specific decision.
The noticeable difference with structural telework is that no prior writing regulates all the modalities (schedule, place of work, equipment, costs). However, this is important for the insurance cover law which supposes to determine when the worker is or not within the framework of the execution of the work. The structural teleworker can relate to the telework agreement (often an amendment to the contract) while the occasional teleworker is often more deprived.
It should be added that the place of teleworking is more frequently subject to other types of activities and therefore to other accidents than professional ones. Frequent teleworking accidents are falls – on stairs and when encountering an obstacle.
Another notable modification is the fact that the worker no longer must travel to get to work. However, even if he works permanently, the employee remains required to make certain trips during his working day. It is in this sense that the legislator has assimilated to the journey to work the journey ‘from the place of residence of the teleworker to the school or the place of childcare, and vice versa, in the case of telework carried out at the place of residence’.
The law on accidents is therefore now extended to occasional teleworkers. Any other writing, authorizing – in a generic or ad hoc, collective, or individual way – teleworking is now authorized. This must mention the place or places where the work is performed and the period of the day during which the work can be carried out.
The prevention of occupational accidents requires a strong safety policy. In this area, insurers also make their contribution through ad hoc interventions carried out by their teams of prevention advisers, but also at the collective level by means of structural proposals.
Because good prevention makes it possible to limit claims and therefore, at the same time, costs, but also the temporary or permanent deprivation of staff members sometimes difficult to replace. From this point of view, prevention empowers the employer.
In addition, the implementation, with the help of the insurer, of a good prevention policy by the employer helps to give the latter a positive social and human image that is highly appreciated by the staff. Most insurers work with prevention engineers who assist the employer in improving safety in the workplace. It is also an essential aspect of the service offered by the insurance company.
Many insurers allow both employers and affiliates to transact online. This ranges from the subscription and the online claim declaration by the employer to the consultation of the claim file by the affiliate concerned. This results in administrative ease for some and a feeling of control and transparency of their own file for others. These various services constitute significant commercial assets.
As we know, the field of accidents at work is extremely regulated by the 1971 law. As a result, it is difficult to be creative and innovative.
Consequently, and this is what this analysis shows, the ‘Accident at Work’ insurers are aware that the only way to stand out from the crowd is to offer extra-legal services or cover as a complement to ‘what is required by law’. These complementary services make it possible to offer a more human and social service.
Prevention and online services are important assets, especially for this subject. The extensions to accidents in private life, to travel, to collateral activities and to the growing phenomenon of teleworking are very welcome as they avoid many post-claim discussions. In addition to that, the extra coverage concerning the growing phenomenon of teleworking is highly appreciated as they avoid many post-loss discussions.
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