As most business owners know, workers’ compensation is a program that insures both employers and employees in the event a worker suffers an injury or is killed on the job. By compensating injured workers or their families through the Government Insurance Fund of the U.S. Virgin Islands, rather than mandating that compensation be paid directly by employers, the program offers broad protections.
The basic principle of workers’ compensation insurance is that employers will be held financially liable for injuries, diseases and death incurred by workers while performing standard job-related tasks. If a workplace accident occurs, the employer must initiate a claim within eight days of being notified of the incident. Most employers are required by Virgin Islands law to purchase workers’ compensation insurance.
Protecting both employers and employees
Workers’ compensation, as its name suggests, offers substantial protection to injured employees from the considerable financial repercussions that could arise from a serious workplace injury. The law also protects the jobs of injured workers, prohibiting employers from refusing to rehire them, except in cases in which the injury results in a permanent inability to do the job or when employees leaves their job of their own volition. And, even if an employer is uninsured, an employee may still make a workers’ compensation claim.
It’s important to understand that failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance won’t remove the burden of payment from an employer. In fact, uninsured employers must reimburse the Government Insurance Fund for all expenses paid to injured employees, plus a 30 percent fee. Thus, workers’ compensation insurance protects employers just as much as it does their employees. By purchasing workers’ compensation insurance, an employer does not have to shoulder the burden of compensating an injured worker for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.
An employer’s best course of action is, first and foremost, to comply with the letter of the law by carrying a workers’ compensation insurance coverage in the Territory. Given the financial penalties for failing to have such a policy in the event of a claim being filed, and the damage that can be done to a company’s reputation and finances as a result, it’s best not to take that risk.
Even if your business is covered, you should still be proactive about reporting any accidents to the Virgin Islands Department of Labor in a timely fashion, as it reduces costs and promotes a safer workplace for all.
BoltNagi is a well-established and widely respected employment law firm serving businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.