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Workers’ compensation insurance is a must-have for most Georgia employers, but keeping track of all the requirements can be a little tricky. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of who should receive coverage, what exceptions exist, and how businesses can obtain coverage for their company.
Why is workers’ comp insurance worth a closer look?
In some ways, workers’ comp insurance is like a safety net for employers and their employees. For employees, it can cover some of the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, and rehabilitation if they get hurt or experience an occupational illness while on the job.
On the flip side, employers get some peace of mind because having a policy generally protects them from lawsuits filed by employees linked to work-related injuries or illnesses.
Which employers in Georgia are required to provide workers’ compensation?
Georgia law requires most employers with three or more full time, part time, or seasonal employees to have workers’ compensation insurance (regardless of how much the employee earns). Keep in mind that if the business is incorporated or an LLC, the corporate officers or members are included in the three or more employee count regardless of whether they exempt themselves from coverage.
Are there any exceptions?
A sole proprietor or partner is not required to have workers’ compensation insurance in Georgia, although he or she can elect to have it. Other exceptions include railroad workers, laborers that work on farms, domestic workers, and US government agencies.
What does workers’ compensation generally cover?
In Georgia, workers’ compensation plans typically provide partial wage replacement, coverage of medical expenses, and rehabilitation costs if an employee experiences an occupational illness or workplace injury (and is forced to miss time at work as a result).
What happens if an employee experiences a work-related incident?
It is a situation no employer wants to have happen, but if a worker does experience an on-the-job injury or occupational illness, the first thing they should do is communicate this information to an immediate supervisor. If this is not possible, the employee should communicate this information within 30 days of the incident. After that point, the employee may lose the workers’ compensation benefits.
When an incident occurs, employers must complete WC-1, also known as the Employer’s First Report of Injury or Occupational Disease.
How does an employer purchase a workers’ compensation policy?
For companies that are located in the state of Georgia, buying a policy from a private or independent insurance carrier or in some cases, self-insurance is an option.
To self-insure, employers are required to file an application with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. In this application, there’s a requirement to:
- Include three years of audited financial statements
- Non-refundable $500.00 application fee made payable to the Georgia Self-Insurers Guaranty Trust Fund.
If the application is approved, a surety bond or letter of credit will be required. The amount of security that is required is determined after a thorough review of the application and financial statements. Though the amount of the bond or letter of credit is generally not less than $250,000.
Understanding the implications of ignoring workers’ compensation in Georgia
There can be some serious (but avoidable) monetary penalties if an employer fails to carry workers’ compensation coverage. Criminal consequences are also a possibility. Some of the penalties listed by the workers’ compensation board are below.
- Failure to provide workers’ compensation coverage can cost between $500 and $5,000 per violation.
- There can also be civil penalties starting at a minimum of $1,000.00 up to a maximum of $10,000 per violation if someone makes any false or misleading statement or misrepresentation in order to obtain or deny workers’ compensation benefits or payments.
- Employers who fail to obtain insurance coverage may be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 and a maximum of 12 months in prison, or both.
- In addition, should an employee experience an incident while on the job (and the employer lacks a workers’ compensation policy), the employer may be responsible for compensating the worker by covering all expenses that insurance would have covered, including legal fees, civil penalties, and all medical expenses, plus a 10% increase in wages.
Employers also need to keep in mind that premiums for workers’ compensation insurance are not supposed to be withheld from an employee’s wages.
In addition to having a policy, employers are required to post a notice that they are in compliance with the law and post both:
- State Board of Workers’ Compensation Bill of Rights for the injured worker
- Panel of Physicians (P1 or P3), in a conspicuous place.
You can obtain both of these notices by calling 404-656-3870.
The insurance company’s name must be posted, or if self-insured the certificate of self-insurance must be posted in a prominent place.
More resources for employers
Bottom line: Workers’ comp is worthwhile coverage
Having a workers’ compensation policy is more than a legal requirement. In many cases, it can provide peace of mind for both you and your staff. With a plan in place, workers can rest easy knowing that they will be taken care of if they get hurt or sick on the job. And in the vast majority of cases, business owners can feel confident that they’ll be protected from litigation due to work-related injuries or illnesses that workers experience.