Worker’s compensation insurance is an important insurance coverage that is beneficial for both the employers and the employees and for the society in general. The insurance coverage provides wage loss benefits, as well as payment of medical bills for employees injured in the course of their work. The importance of worker’s compensation can be estimated from the fact that since ancient history, some form of compensation was available for workers in one way or another.
Worker’s Compensation in Ancient and Modern History
Some concept of worker’s compensation has been present in human societies as far back as 2050B.C. The oldest such law reported in history has been from the city state of Ur in the state of Sumeria located in the Fertile Crescent. The law of Ur required laborers to be paid monetary compensation for different injuries especially if the injury involved a fracture. Almost all ancient civilizations from Greeks to Romans and Arabs to Chinese also had some form of worker’s compensation. As feudalism became the primary government structure, the compensation for the worker depended on the mercy of the lord.
However, with the industrial revolution the requirement of laws and regulations for worker’s compensation became all the more important. The most important development for worker’s compensation first occurred in Prussia in 1884. Back then, Prussia was ruled by Bismarck who introduced the Worker’s Accident Insurance to ensure common Prussians remained loyal to him. The Insurance introduced by Bismarck was the first modern worker’s compensation system in which employees were provided benefits for injuries on job and their medical and rehabilitation expenses were also covered. The system also ensured that employers could not be sued in civil courts for injuries on work. A similar law was proposed in the UK Parliament in 1893 which ensured benefits to the employee for any work related injury without requiring a proof of negligence of the employer. This Worker’s Compensation Act was passed by the UK Parliament in 1897. At about the same time, worker’s plight because of work related injuries also got the attention of the public and state legislatures in the United States and different states including New York, Maryland, Montana and Massachusetts attempted to pass comprehensive insurance and compensation laws for the workers in the first decade of the 20th century. The first state to pass compensation law was Wisconsin which did so in 1911. 45 other states passed comprehensive laws for worker’s compensation in that decade. Mississippi was the last state to pass the law when it did so in 1948.
History of Worker’s Compensation in Oregon
When Oregon State Legislature passed the worker’s compensation law, SAIF (State Accident Insurance Fund Corporation) was also created as a non-profit organization. The state agency was created according to the law in 1914. SAIF became US’s first public worker’s compensation insurance corporation in 1980. SAIF provides worker’s compensation insurance for more than 35% of the workforce in Oregon that amounts to more than half a million people. In 2004, a measure to abolish SAIF was rejected by almost 61% of voters. However, public criticism of the management of SAIF and debate over its methods still continues. Oddly, several corporations played a part in the advancement of worker’s comp in Oregon, including McDonald’s, with their online job application, Subway, with their worker’s initiative, and KFC.