Today President Obama announced the expansion of flexible hours for governmental employees. This major trend, already exists in private industry as companies seek to expand on-demand employment.
This appears to be an expansion of the President's remarks made Saturday in his weekly address: "Then there’s the issue of flexibility – the ability to take a few hours off for a parent-teacher conference or to work from home when your kid is sick. Most workers want it, but not enough of them have it. What’s more, it not only makes workers happier – studies show that flexibility can make workers more productive and reduce worker turnover and absenteeism. That’s good for business."
A serious issue will be whether the century old workers' compensation system be able to adapt to the irregular work hours. Workers' compensation is a patchwork of systems that evolved 100 years ago in a tradeoff of benefits and legal duties. It's fiscal structure is based on premiums paid for hours worked, ie. audited payrolls.
A new dynamic now exists in both the delivery of both wage loss benefits and medical benefits. This new frontier will have a profound effect upon the national workers' compensation program.
Wages historically form the basis of establishing rates for both temporary and permanent disability benefits. Some of those benefits are subject to reconstruction based on limited/reduced wages, ie. temporary disability benefits. Some wages not reconstructed, ie. permanent disability benefits.
The cost of medical benefits is an escalating challenge to the entire system. Medical benefits are paid entirely by the employer. As medical/pharmaceutical benefits continued to soar in cost, and the Federal medical care program continues to expand, the Affordable Care Act, workers compensation program will become less stable.
Over the decades the concept and ethic of work, as we have know it to exist, has changed. Adding the processes of, the expansion of flexible work hours and on-demand employment on a global basis, will require readjustment of the workers' compensation delivery system.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.