When imagining 18th century pirates, the first thing that comes to mind is a Jack Sparrow stereotype: swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, plundering of treasure, and probably a lack of bathing. Progressive workers’ compensation policies are not on that list.
However, because piracy (or “privateering” for the gentlemanly type) was a famously dangerous occupation, these corsairs were among the first recipients of compensation for on-the-job injury.
Similar to today’s compensation schedules, benefits differed based on injury. For example, the loss of an eye or finger would merit about 50 weeks’ worth of wages, and losing the right arm netted 300 weeks. Fairly close to modern benefits.
Although there was no recorded compensation for death, injured crew members could stay on board and perform less strenuous tasks. Thus creating the first “return-to-work program.”
And here I was thinking an eye-patch and a date with the plank was as close as pirates got to compensation benefits. I guess we can thank Blackbeard’s ilk for pioneering workers’ comp. “Yo ho, yo ho, a worker’s rights for me” just seems less catchy.
Source: Insurance Journal