How Restaurant Owners Handle Workers Comp Insurance Post-COVID 19

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As restaurants reopen post-COVID, the health and safety of staff will undoubtably be a top priority.

Prevention is key.

Here are a few recommended processes to help keep your bar or restaurant from having an outbreak:

1) Overcommunicate
2) Deliberate Processes & Procedures
3) Acceptance of COVID Fear

Even with strong preventative measures it’s impossible to guarantee 100% someone won’t get sick.

If someone does get sick, workers’ comp insurance will be your last line of defense.

As your establishment begins to reopen in a post-COVID world, there are many aspects of your business that are going to be on your brain.

One that I do not want you to forget is your workers’ compensation insurance.


Workers’ compensation is not something that any of us want to think about. For many business owners, it’s a necessary evil that we think about once a year when our policy comes up for renewal. However, during the reopening process of your restaurant, there is no better time to review your workers’ compensation policy.

Pay-As-You-Go Workers Comp

There are many carriers that have added a pay-as-you-go payment option. What’s important to know is pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation is not a change to the policy itself. It’s a payment methodology.

What it allows you to do is pay workers’ compensation premiums only for the corresponding payroll that you actually use.

This means you don’t have to guess at the beginning of the year at how much payroll you’re going to have, and then find out at the end of the policy term when you get your audit that you owe that insurance company a large sum of money.

You should never have a surprise workers comp audit bill, pay-as-you-go helps make sure you don’t.


There are also quite a few workers’ compensation specific carriers in the state of New York that have incredible rates for bars and restaurants right now.

Now is a great time to reevaluate your workers’ compensation insurance for your restaurant.


COVID-19 Safety Processes & Procedures

There are many processes and procedures being put in place by the state. For now, restaurant owners must follow these guidelines or face a potential penalty (as unconstitutional as those penalties maybe).

The following three ideas are different. They are risk management techniques meant to help you decrease your Total Cost of Risk.

Over-Communicate Process

It’s imperative that restaurant owners over-communicate what regulations are and talk to your team about why they’re important. Answer staff questions and bring them into the process.

What you do not want is to have an outbreak in your establishment.

That is a worst case scenario, not just from a workers’ compensation standpoint, but from a brand standpoint and from ability to make money standpoint, right?

The purpose here is reopening and staying open and the key is to gain momentum so that you can get back to full capacity as soon as possible.

By over-communicating and getting your staff bought in, you have a very good chance of doing that.

Be Deliberate With Process

Be very deliberate with how you communicate to customers and staff how your restaurant with operate moving forward.

Yes, I know this hits on the experience of coming to a restaurant, but in these early days of post-COVID reopening, we want to make sure that everyone understands the guidelines for how the experience is going to take place.

This includes spacing, order taking, delivery of food, getting drinks, handling, and processing all kinds of different aspects of your business.

You can’t guarantee that no one gets sick. What you can do is as much as possible is help slow and/or prevent the spread of the sickness throughout your staff.

Establish Safety Culture

Lastly, create a culture where it is okay for a sick employee to stay home.

Restaurant owners do not want employees to feel like they’ll be penalized or chastised for not showing up because they don’t feel well.

People want to work. They are coming back for a reason. Whether that reason is money or they just need to get out of their house and they’re going to want to come in. They’re going to want to be part of the team. They’re going to want to contribute.

They’re going to want to make money.

It is very important that anyone who feels sick, doesn’t feel pressured to come in and stays home.

The Take Away

Developing a safe, post COVID-19 work environment in your restaurant or bar starts with leadership.

These are the soft skills that will drastically reduce the frequency and severity of claims for your workers’ comp in general, but specifically for COVID related issues.

Workers’ compensation is what we do here at Western States.


If your current insurance professional has never addressed issues such as total cost of risk or return to work programs with you before, then I’d encourage you to reach out to us today.


I look forward to introducing you to a new way of viewing your insurance program.

Thank you,

Matt Barber


Thank you and have a great day,

Matt Barber

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