Quick guide: Wisconsin workers’ compensation insurance
Your small business work comp questions answered
You’ve got a business to run, so we’ll tell you what you need to know about workers’ compensation in Wisconsin — what it is, who needs it, and where you can buy it.
What is workers’ comp?
Workers’ compensation insurance was created to pay for medical costs and lost wages if employees are injured at work. Benefits can also include payments to compensate for permanent disabilities and to dependents of workers who are killed in job-related incidents. It protects employees from the costs of work injuries and protects employers from lawsuits. You’ll sometimes hear it called workman’s comp or work comp, but they all mean the same thing.
What does workers' compensation insurance cover?
Unlike other lines of insurance, workers’ compensation doesn’t offer different or optional levels of coverage for you to choose. When your policy is in place, it covers every work-related injury considered compensable by Wisconsin state law. Workers’ comp benefits are spelled out by state law and don’t vary from policy to policy within the state.
How do I know if I need workers' comp insurance?
If you usually employ three or more full-time or part-time employees, or if you have employees with combined gross wages of $500 or more in any calendar quarter, Wisconsin law requires you to have workers’ compensation insurance. Family members must be covered, except for certain relatives in farm operations. Corporate officers must also be covered. The threshold is different for farmers, and there are a few other exceptions, which are listed in the next question.
Note that employees must be covered by workers’ compensation, but independent contractors don’t need to be. If you are having trouble determining how your workers are classified, you can use the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s worker classification test.
Are there any exceptions for family members, farms or small businesses?
There are a few exclusions in Wisconsin, including:
- Domestic servants, such as nannies
- Sole proprietors, partners, and members of limited liability companies (unless the organization elects to cover these individuals)
- Volunteers of nonprofit organizations whose salary or in-kind compensation doesn’t top $10 per week
- Employees of Native American tribal enterprises, unless the tribe elects to waive its sovereign immunity
How much will it cost?
Your workers’ compensation premium is based on how much your payroll is, how dangerous your industry is, and your business’ history of work injuries. If you have a clean safety record, it can help keep your premium low.
For more on how premium is calculated, see our Workers’ Comp 101 page.
Where do I buy workers’ comp insurance?
Where can I get more information on workers’ compensation in Wisconsin?
How can I lower my workers’ compensation premium?
Having thorough hiring practices and keeping your workplace safe can help you keep your workers’ compensation costs under control. Why? Because these are both important ways to prevent workplace injuries, and premiums are based in part on your claim history. For more details and other ways to control workers’ comp costs, see our blog post titled “3 essential tips to keep workers’ compensation costs under control.”
What if only a few of my employees work in Wisconsin?
Anyone who fits the definition of “employer” under Wisconsin statute must have a policy. This includes:
- Employers who usually employ three or more full-time or part-time employees in Wisconsin.
- Employers who usually employ fewer than three employees in Wisconsin when combined gross wages of $500 or more are paid in any calendar quarter for work done in Wisconsin.
- Farms with six or more employees employed on the same day for any 20 consecutive days during the calendar year.
What information do I need to get a quote?
To start the quote process, all you need is your name, contact information, business name and a description of your business.
To get your quote, we’ll likely need some additional information about your payroll and loss experience.
For more details, see our blog post titled “What information do I need to get a workers’ compensation quote?”
This is not intended to serve as legal advice for individual fact-specific legal cases or as a legal basis for your employment practices.