workers' compensation, payment by employers for some part of the cost of injuries, or in some cases of occupational diseases, received by employees in the course of their work. The degree of responsibility varies in different countries and in different states of the United States. Most modern worker's compensation systems consist of legislation requiring the employer to furnish a reasonably safe place to work, suitable equipment, rules and instructions when they are reasonably necessary, and reasonably competent foremen and superintendents. The employer is liable for an employee's acts of negligence, for the employer's own gross negligence, and for extraordinary risks of work. In most cases the employer is not liable for accidents occurring outside the place of work, or for those which have not arisen directly from employment. Workers' compensation legislation was first passed in Germany, Austria, and Great Britain in the late 1800s. Such legislation came later in the United States, but by 1920 all but six states had passed some form of it; at present all states have some sort of workers' compensation. Private insurance companies offer employers' compensation insurance; some states have made such insurance compulsory, and a few have created state insurance funds to secure payments even when the employer is insolvent. Most states similarly provide for public employees, although some limit this coverage to workers engaged in dangerous occupations. In Great Britain the payment of compensation is required for almost all industrial accidents. In France all noninsured employers are taxed for a state fund that guarantees compensation payments. In the United States, as well as in other countries, benefits usually cover medical expenses, cash payments in the case of temporary or permanent incapacity, and increasingly, vocational rehabilitation.
See P. S. Barth and H. Hunt, Workers' Compensation and Work Related Illnesses and Diseases (1980); A. Millus et al., Workers' Compensation: Law and Insurance (1980).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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