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Nearly all Pennsylvania employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This means small businesses who have one or more employees must have an active workers’ compensation insurance policy for their current payroll.
State law includes any employees working in Pennsylvania, whether part-time or full-time. Unlike some states, Pennsylvania considers family members that work for the business employees as well.
As of 2011, the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act (also called Act 72) makes misclassification of employees as independent contractors illegal for all commercial and residential construction in Pennsylvania.
An employer cannot classify employees as contractors in order to avoid workers' compensation insurance. In the event of a contested workers’ compensation claim, the courts would determine whether the worker met the criteria for an employee. (If the court ruled in favor of the workers, the employer would have to pay the claim, and any penalties and fees).
Pennsylvania Act 72 also established a narrow definition of an “independent contractor.” Learn more about how to determine worker status and stay in compliance with state law.
Pennsylvania has very few exceptions for employers. A business may be exempt from providing coverage if all workers can be described as one of the following:
Any workers that do not meet the above classifications would need to be covered by an active workers' comp insurance policy on or before their start date.
To ensure you’re in compliance with state law, talk to an insurance rep familiar with Pennsylvania’s work comp system.
Failure to provide proof of workers' comp insurance can expose a small business to legal and financial liability. The employer may need to cover medical expenses out of pocket, an injured employee may be able to sue for negligence, and the state may impose fines or disbar the business from public work contracts.
Penalties for non-compliance in Pennsylvania could result in fines of $2,500 for each day the employer is in violation, and up to one year in prison. Felony convictions could mean a $15,000 fine for each day the employer intentionally violated state workers' comp laws, and up to seven years prison.
According to one study by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, 2020 Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance rates were 20th in the nation — falling in the middle of the bell curve. Pennsylvania employers can expect to pay, on average, between $1.50 and $1.99 per $100 in payroll. (Though exact rates differ based on classification code.)
Recent changes in the PA work comp system have largely centered around premium costs and curbing over-prescription of pain medication. State legislature and work comp agencies have been debating how to treat worker injuries while combating rising rates of opioid addiction — a crisis that cost the state nearly $54 billion in 2016.
Most states use the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) to collect workplace data and set rates. Pennsylvania has its own agency, the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau, that like NCCI, collects loss, premium and payroll data, and recommends workers’ compensation rates.
How much is workers' comp insurance in PA? In short, cost is dictated by the size of the company's payroll and the type of work employees do.
Work comp premium costs vary based on business size, industry and claims history. Rates are set for each class code, or industry. This base rate is multiplied by company payroll, and then other discounts may be applied by an insurance carrier to calculate the final premium.
To calculate premium costs, insurers use the gross annual payroll for all workers covered under the policy. If executive officers are covered under the policy, the minimum individual payroll that can be submitted for an officer is $1,025 per week, according to the most recent underwriting guidelines issued by the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau. The maximum officer payroll for workers' compensation is $2,550 per week, with a few class code-specific exceptions.
Businesses with premiums of at least $10,000 may receive an Experience Modifier, which alters their premium based on the employer’s loss history. Businesses that haven't filed any claims are rewarded for good workplace safety, and may receive a credit on their premium.
To reduce premium costs, Pennsylvania small businesses might also consider:
For more information on how much workers' compensation insurance costs:
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If you need to purchase workers’ comp insurance in Pennsylvania, you have a few options:
Pennsylvania has a private workers’ compensation market. Employers can purchase a workers' compensation policy from any private insurance carrier or agency that is licensed to write in that state.
Pennsylvania also has a state fund that competes with the private market. Businesses can contact the State Workers’ Insurance Fund if they are unable to secure coverage from a private insurance carrier. As a state agency, SWIF is required to provide coverage to any Pennsylvania business. Contact the state fund for up-to-date SWIF rates.
Some large, financially healthy businesses may be eligible to self-insure.
To get covered, contact a licensed insurer. You can get a quote within several business days, or as little as a few hours.
Remember: Your workers’ compensation policy is only in effect within Pennsylvania. If your employees travel across state lines to work, make sure you comply with their work comp requirements.
Premiums vary based on business size, location, industry and claims history. Find out the average small business work comp premium and how much you might pay.
Every company with employees is required by Pennsylvania state law to carry workers’ compensation insurance — and the cost of not doing so is steep.