Policymakers Share Their Perspectives on Workers’ Comp Trends

Tennessee's Abbie Hudgens and Georgia's Frank McKay share their take on the regulatory changes impacting workers' comp at this year's NWCDC.
By: | November 28, 2018

Regulatory and policy trends have a lasting impact on workers’ compensation.

During Wednesday’s session, “On the Horizon: Policymaker Perspectives,” at this year’s  National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo, Abbie Hudgens, the administrator of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation of the State of Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Frank McKay, chairman and chief appellate court judge of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation in Georgia, detailed a few of these regulatory trends.

“The future of work is changing,” said McKay. “We see jobs have already disappeared. There’s a shift from the industrial age to a technical revolution.”

“There’s a lot going on in the regulatory community that can have an impact on the workers’ comp space and its employers,” added Hudgens. “The genesis of this topic came from conversations in the workers’ compensation regulator community … about the future of workers’ comp.”

Hudgens and McKay were joined by joined by Jennifer Wolf Horejsh, executive director, IAIABC, who moderated the discussion.

Trends to Watch

1) The Gig Economy: The gig economy is a major trend on Hudgens’ radar: “It’s an issue we see emerging right now as employees leave the standard model of working for companies and are working for themselves. They don’t have the protections ‘regular’ employment provides.”

It also leads to questions surrounding what makes a person a gig worker versus an “employee.” A series of bills proposed by the company Handy state that gig workers should be considered freelancers or independent contractors. At least eight states have introduced these bills and three others signed them into law. Now these workers no longer have access to labor protections employees have, including workers’ comp benefits.

2) Artificial Intelligence: For McKay, the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) is a regulatory trend to watch.

“It’s a big issue in the workers’ comp industry, because a lot of jobs disappearing are manual labor type jobs. If we look at the history of the country, the history of workers’ compensation, a hundred years ago we went from agriculture to the manufacturing. Now it’s manufacturing to the technological age.”

McKay did add AI and other tech advances have their pros, primarily in cost:benefit analyses. His main concern: Are the number of jobs going to shrink due to growing AI acceptance in the workplace?

“We need to see where we are now as an industry and where we’re headed and anticipate the needs of people in the future. That’s something we’re going to have to figure out.” &

Autumn Demberger is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].

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