How Does Workers’ Comp Cover Digital Nomads?

  • Published Jul 18, 2022

As working from home and remote working increases in popularity, telecommuters are relishing the opportunity to live more flexible lives while working from their home, their favorite coffee shop, or anywhere around the world. Digital nomads, many of whom consider themselves to be the future of remote working, are taking to planes, trains, and automobiles in order to work from wherever they please.

With this increase in telecommuting, businesses face unique challenges regarding how they handle everything from company policies to business insurance. Whether you’re a remote worker yourself or you employ remote workers who wish to travel, you likely have many questions about workers’ comp for digital nomads.

Here, we’ll break it down and help you understand the laws and circumstances that dictate how workers’ comp covers digital nomads.

What Are Digital Nomads?

First, let’s talk about what distinguishes digital nomads from other telecommuters. Unlike remote workers who primarily work from home in a home office, digital nomads work from various places at various times in their career. Whether they’re traveling around the globe, road-tripping across the United States, or office-hopping to various co-working spaces in their home city, digital nomads are usually more flexible and independent in how and where they work.

Many digital nomads are freelancers or independent contractors. Others may be employed full-time by companies that are open to a more flexible working experience.

Workers’ Comp for Digital Nomads

If your office is on the beach, what role does workers’ comp insurance play in your working life? As a business owner who employs remote employees, are you legally required to provide workers’ comp coverage for them? These are important questions for both digital nomads and the companies that employ them. Workers need to know if they’re covered, and business owners need to know if they should provide coverage and what, if any, liabilities they face with having a digital nomad on their payroll.

The answer to these questions lies in how an employee is categorized at the company. If an employee is classified as an independent contractor or freelancer, or, in other words, is not considered an official employee, then it generally falls on the employee to provide their own workers’ compensation insurance. This is similar to how freelancers and independent contractors are responsible for paying their own taxes, social security, pension, and other benefits. Although state laws may vary regarding how businesses treat independent contractors and freelancers, this is the case for most states.

If an employee is classified as an employee, however, the laws of the state that the business operates in will determine whether or not the business must provide workers’ comp insurance. If you own a business and your state law finds digital nomads to be employees eligible for workers’ compensation, you must pay for insurance coverage for all qualifying employees.

Digital nomads who are employees and are required by state law to be covered by workers’ compensation can run into an additional challenge: workers’ compensation only covers work-related duties and the line between personal time and work time can become blurred for digital nomads.

For example, what happens if a digital nomad is working on the beach and during the course of a busy day sustains back injuries due to hours at the laptop? In this case, workers’ compensation would likely cover the injury because it was work-related, even though it happened at the beach. If, on the other hand, a digital nomad working as a copywriter was taking a break at their hotel gym and got injured on the treadmill, this would not be covered, because the worker was not engaged in work activities.

What about if a digital worker is working at a coffee shop and spills coffee on themselves, causing burn injuries? This is a gray area.

In fact, there are many gray areas with digital nomads and workers’ compensation, and in these situations it may take negotiation or even taking a claim to court to determine whether the worker is eligible for benefits. It can be hard for workers to prove they were actively working when an injury took place and not taking a break, for example. There may not be witnesses who can determine if an injury happened in the course of work duties and it may be up to the worker to provide evidence that their injury was caused by work, whether they were injured when biking to a client meeting, suffered an injury on a plane while working on a laptop, or otherwise were injured in this type pf “gray area” incident.

Cerity — Workers’ Comp Made Easy

With the world in constant flux, it’s essential that employees and businesses are protected against unforeseen events. Workers’ comp helps cover medical expenses, lost wages, and more in the event that an employee is injured and cannot work. Cerity created a faster, more affordable approach to workers’ comp, making getting the coverage you need for your business easier than ever before. Our proprietary tools and modern technology work together to generate a quote quickly — without phone calls and paperwork.

Visit our free online quote tool, tell us a little bit about your business, get your affordable rate, and buy a policy online in minutes to cover you and your employees.

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The information provided is intended to provide a general overview. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Cerity® makes no warranties for the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of the information provided, and will not be responsible for any actions taken based on the information contained herein. If you have legal questions or need legal advice, please consult an attorney.