Workers’ compensation insurance is a unique part of the household employment hiring checklist. It’s not tied to the payroll and tax process, but can have a dramatic impact on a family’s finances. The following incident is a prime example of why families need to inquire about workers’ compensation before their household employee starts her first day of work.
A family in Tennessee hired a nanny to take care of their 2 kids. The family lived near the park in their neighborhood, so it was part of the nanny’s daily routine to take the kids there and let them have some play time outdoors. Unfortunately, only 3 weeks into the job, the nanny hurt herself while playing with one of the kids and was unable to walk back to the family’s home. She was able to call the mother who quickly drove to the park, picked up the nanny and the kids and took the nanny to the emergency room.
The nanny’s doctor informed her that it would be unsafe for her to care for the family’s children for 3 weeks while she recovered. Between the emergency room visit, x-ray, MRI, arthroscopic surgery and 12 recommended rehabilitation sessions, the total cost of her care came to approximately $8,800. To make matters worse, the hospital informed the nanny that her insurance company refused to pay for her treatment because it was a work-related injury. The nanny and the family were both confused about what to do.
The majority of states require household employers to purchase a workers’ compensation policy to assist their employee with medical bills and lost wages if they are sick or injured on the job. Even if workers’ compensation isn’t required in a family’s state, they can still be held liable for the value of their employee’s lost wages and medical bills in a work-related incident. Many families mistakenly believe their homeowner’s insurance umbrella policy is sufficient for coverage. However, these policies are written for “guest workers” (i.e. a painter or plumber doing a short-term project) and do not cover an in-home employee.
Note: In California, a homeowner’s insurance policy will cover a household employee provided they work 20 hours or less. If the employee works more than this, a rider must be purchased to provide adequate coverage.
Since Tennessee is not a state that requires household employers to have workers’ compensation for a nanny, the family didn’t break any employment laws. However, since the nanny’s insurance company refused to pay for her medical bills, the family was stuck with the $8,800 bill – plus another $1,800 to pay their nanny for the 3 weeks of work she had to miss. In order to save a little money when their nanny was recovering, both parents used vacation time from their own job to watch their kids until their nanny returned to work. The family now has a workers’ compensation policy – which costs them a little under $500 a year to protect them in case another accident occurs.
This case illustrates why it’s a good idea for families to purchase workers’ compensation, even it’s not required by their state. This family unfortunately made a $9,000 mistake – largely because they weren’t informed about workers’ compensation during the hiring process. Had they received a thorough consultation from an expert like HomePay, we could have eliminated this risk. You can easily imagine a scenario where a household employee is injured on the job worse than this family’s nanny. The resulting medical bills could be 2 or 3 times more expensive, which could cripple a family’s finances.