Have a Work Comp Audit soon?

Here are 7 tips for a Smooth Workers Compensation Audit

Find the best advice for a smooth workers compensation audit at myinsurancequestion.com

Each year all businesses must go through a workers compensation audit process. If you are like most small business owners, this is not one of your favorite parts of owning a business.  The process can be long a tidious, but the more prepared you are for this process, the more quick and more smooth the process will be. Consulting with your independent insurance agent can help you prepare for the process and make sure the audit is done well the first time through the process. Here are 7 ways to ensure this process goes as painless as possible.

Communicate with your agent.

Open communication with your insurance agent is essential to a smooth workers compensation audit. This is a reason why it is important to consider an independent insurance agent.  An independent agent is not as closely associated to the insurance carrier.  They can help you prepare for the audit and negotiate on your behalf if anything does not go in your favor. Open communication throughout your relationship with your insurance agent is essential to a satisfied experience during your small businesses workers comp audit.

Have paperwork prepared in advance

Having all necessary paperwork prepared in advance of your audit will make the process move as smooth as it possibly can.  This includes any and all payroll and employee records.  Job descriptions need to be included for each employee and their annual weeks, days and hours worked.  The more detailed the better.

Payment and cash disbursement records,

Throughout the year it is important to keep a record of all payments and cash disbursement.  Not having these available and organized is a good reason to have the auditor dig a little deeper. The more open, honest and organized you are throughout the entire audit process the more smooth the process will be.

Certificates of Insurance 

In order to ensure a smooth workers compensation audit, make sure to keep a detailed record of all needed certificates of insurance for any and all sub-contractors or independent contractors your business used. The primary reason for providing these documents is that if you do not, these contractors will be listed as employees and it can substantially raise what you pay in premium.

Experience Modification Worksheet

The experience modification worksheet is a document that is published annually by the rating bureau in your state.  It covers the loss history for your business during the most recent three-year period, not including the most recent year.  The most recent year is not included due to overlap from some claims not being closed.  If you have had a large claims or a large amount of minor claims during any year it is important to have this worksheet available in order to show the true loss history of your business.

Make yourself available for the exit interview 

After a typically smooth workers compensation audit there is an exit interview at some time.  It usually lasts several hours and is a way for the auditor to ensure they have all the necessary information to accurately audit your business. The more up-front you are with the auditor the more smooth the process will be.

Respond promptly to auditor follow-up questions  

There will more than likely be questions you do not have the answer to, the auditor will have for you during the audit.  The more quick and more thorough you respond to these questions the more the auditor will work with you to promptly and accurately finish the audit process.  The time period after the audit, before the auditor will finish the process, normally takes two to three weeks. There may be additional questions that need clarification.  This may be a frustrating part of the process, but the more accurate the audit is the better it is for your company.  Your agent can help you with any of these questions if you are having a trouble finding the exact information to satisfy the auditor.  It is also important to keep in mind that for security purposes, the auditor does not keep your payroll records.  You very likely will be asked to provide additional information or records that you have already provided.

An Accurate audit is in your best interest, moreso than a fast audit.  This process is frustrating even during a good audit.  It will take time away from your normal work, but it is within your best interest to ensure your audit is fair and accurate. Keep a positive attitude and consult your independent insurance agent in order to ensure your audit process goes as smoothly as possible.

Workers Compensation Insurance Expert

Personally, I have written workers compensation insurance across the U.S. for 10 years. I have partnered with multiple industries and multiple insurance providers. While doing this I have realized the difficulty and importance of finding an insurance agent that specializes in this line of insurance.  Especially finding an expert who has a positive relationship with the underwriters they work with. For most business owners, Workers Compensation Insurance is one of their biggest insurance expenses. It can be a nightmare to find if the business experiences’ a substantial change in payroll, or if the business has claims or a bad audit experience.   Most insurance agents do not specialize in workers compensation insurance and because this they do not fully understand how it operates.  Therefore, these agents do not want to jeopardize their relationship with their client and potentially lose the other lines of insurance such as general liability or auto by giving bad advice.

While speaking with business owners about workers compensation insurance I feel it’s important to explain the process of how the policy works. I attempt to explain what a classification code is, what the rate per $100 means and how uninsured and insured 1099’s are handled by the audit process.  I do this in an attempt to help the business owner understand how the policy can change throughout the policy term. After the audit is completed, most workers compensation policies change in total pricing after the policy period expires. Since the policy is audited following each policy term it’s important for the business owner to understand the potential changes that could have a significant financial impact on their pocketbook. Do you want to work with an agent that doesn’t take the time to explain these potential changes to you?

When working with a workers compensation expert, the agent will be able to determine or research the correct workers compensation classification code. The correct workers compensation code determines the businesses pricing for workers comp insurance, it’s the most important first step in the process. After the classification code is determined the agent should explain the importance of estimating your employee wages correctly at the beginning of the policy due to the audit. If a business uses 1099 labor, it’s important for the agent to explain how that 1099 is either added or excluded from the business owners audit. After the policy period expires and the audit takes place, it’s important for the agency to be able to explain why the audit resulted in the way it did OR be able to help with disputing the audit.   Business owners can typically accomplish this with the insurance company directly, however, I feel it’s important for your insurance agent to be able to review, educate and assist with correcting after an audit is finished.

One component that most business owners do not understand about insurance quotes is the relationship between the agent and the insurance company is very important. If the agents relationship with the insurance company is untrustworthy, it could cause the insurance underwriter to decline instead of quoting because they don’t trust the information given by the agent. If the agent doesn’t specialize in workers compensation insurance, it’s possible the agent is not providing the relevant information to the underwriter. It’s important to make the underwriter feel comfortable with the business they are reviewing before they are willing to quote, especially when it’s a more difficult or unfamiliar industry. Loss ratio of the clients that agent has insured with an insurance provider is extremely important. If an agency continues to insure bad businesses with an insurance company, suffering bad losses or them finding dishonest information at audit, that insurance underwriter will be less likely to quote for that agent and will not be as aggressive with pricing.

Work with an expert when trying to find optimal pricing for workers compensation insurance. Not only will an expert know how to explain and assist but they will have the relationships established with insurance providers that will give you the most competitive pricing.

6 ways to save when shopping for Workers’ Comp Insurance

Workers’ Compensation is one type of insurance that is required by law in nearly every state in the country. Because of this it is imperative that all business owners take advantage of every way they can to save on this required coverage. There are a few things business owners can change about their daily operations that can have a noticeable effect on what they pay for worker’s compensation insurance.

Keep a well-documented safety program.

Keeping a well-documented safety program includes a return to work program for injured workers and a detailed driver safety program if you have workers who will be driving as part of their normal work related duties. Safety programs do not have to take a lot of time away from your normal business routine to help you save your business money. It can be as little as a 15-minute huddle once a week. The meetings do need to be regular, but they can be weekly, bimonthly, monthly, whatever you determine is best for your business.  Attendance should be recorded as well as the subjects covered at each meeting. A well-documented safety program can really benefit your company when you do have an injury. If you have a well-documented safety program in place than your agent can speak with your insurance carrier and defend your business as one that is taking the needed steps to limit claims. If you have these programs in place the agent can more easily show the injury as more of an outlier and not a sign of trouble ahead.

 

Make sure you are in the proper classification code

Being placed in the wrong classification code happens more frequently than one might imagine. This can change what you pay in premium both positive and negative. There is an audit at the end of every term so this can cause unexpected costs at the end of the year for many businesses. Landscaping is a good example of an industry that has two classification codes that are much different in price. The two main classification codes for landscaping are 9102 & 0042. 9102 is for businesses that maintain already existing lawns and garden beds. 0042 is for businesses that design and install lawns and beds. This is a more dangerous undertaking and costs more in premium. If you are not crystal clear with your agent what your business does on a daily basis, they may assume you are in a riskier classification code. This can cause your business to pay more in premium than it has to. This can be a problem even if you pay too little because an audit is run at the end of every term and if you are than classified correctly, any premium that is owed will then be due. 

 

Actively ask your agent for approved credits and discounts.

Credits and discounts are available for many industries. They are offered by the state and the individual carriers to help business owners save on premium. Your agent has to ask for them in order to get the full amount of discount possibly available. If you bring this to their attention as a priority early in your interaction with them they will know to actively seek the best price. Insurance Agents have to deal with many business owners on a daily basis and the priorities of each business owner may be very different. Many business owners value their time above anything else. These business owners may rather pay a little more in order to just have the process over. If price is an important determining factor in your choice to buy commercial insurance, then let your agent know this up front. That way they can actively seek out every credit or discount available. 

 

Price shop, but do it carefully. 

You should always shop your policy around to make sure you are getting a competitive rate.  This is the first thing to do when you want to save on commercial insurance.  Switching for a moderate discount is not advised. This becomes important when your business inevitably has a claim. Your business will have a claim at some point in time. If you are a customer that has been with the carrier for several years, they are less likely to raise your rate on decline coverage of you altogether. If you are a business that switches carriers every year for a modest decline in price than you are much more likely to be dropped from coverage when a claim does occur. If you are dropped from coverage and cannot find insurance from another carrier than you are forced in to what is called the state fund. Policies in the state fund are much more expensive and depending upon your state once you are in the state fund you must remain there for 2-4 years. 

 

Have an informative website.

A website is beneficial to your business in more ways than just marketing. When you are applying for commercial insurance your agent is going to ask several questions about your daily operations. They are going to investigate it and so is the underwriter of the insurance carrier you are getting a quote from. If you tell them, you only do one type of business and your website shows you are doing something else than you better be prepared to explain what you do or do not do on a daily basis. On the contrary if you have a website that confirms what you have told your agent it will strengthen your relationship with them. This will help when and if you have a claim and need them to help you explain what happened to your insurance carrier. 

Consider changing the limits to your policy

The limits of your policy are important to protect your business, but they are not set in stone. They are not the same for every business owner either. Some business owners want to protect their business fully. Even protect it beyond what could imaginably happen to their business. Other Business owners are quite comfortable taking on more risk. If you are one of those business owners than lowering your limits is one way to lower what you pay in premium. Now most carriers will have a minimum amount you have to take, but if you are above those limits it may be worth your while to speak with your insurance agent about the pros and cons of lowering those limits. As long as you are making an informed decision and you know the risks you are taking lowering the limits of your policy can be an effective way to save on premium.

What is the process for a Workers’ Compensation Payroll Audit?

The premium for most Workers Compensation Insurance Policies are based on a payroll “estimate” for the upcoming 12 month period from the effective date of the policy.  This is made as accurate as possible during the workers compensation payroll audit.  In addition, each business type is assigned one or more workers’ compensation classification codes. Each of the codes are assigned a percentage rate factor. Payroll is than multiplied by the percentage rate factor for each class code. This is what determines the amount of the premium. After the policy period is complete, EVERY standard workers compensation carrier will perform a payroll audit for the previous 12 months of coverage.

During this audit process the auditor can require either a physical or mail audit. Mail audits are fairly simple. They require completing a worksheet and submitting the requested payroll verification documents. Physical audits require the auditor to meet with the business owner, collect and verify payroll documentation and inspect the business to determine proper classification. Payroll documents usually include year-end tax reports, payroll ledgers and 1099 payroll information.

The purpose of an audit is to determine the “actual” wages paid to employees and to make sure the employees are classified correctly. After the audit process is complete, the auditor reserves the right to change the workers compensation class code however they interpret the business based on their inspection. The auditor will report to the insurance carrier, the “actual” wages paid to employees and uninsured 1099’s per class code. The insurance carrier will than adjust the payroll figures and class codes. IF need be the auditor will than send the business owner a refund or an invoice for the additional amount due. If the business owner fails to complete the audit as requested it will cause difficulty purchasing a workers compensation policy in the future.

After the business owner receives the audit results, the business owner has the right to dispute the results if they feel something is incorrect. Business owners can go directly to the audit department to capture the auditor’s report/notes or business owners can involve their agent to assist with this process. If a classification code is changed and the business owner doesn’t agree the business owner must request an inspection by the appropriate state workers compensation bureau. Typically this request costs the business owner a few hundred dollars. The bureau inspection and classification code determination is final.

What is Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation?

Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation Insurance is a fairly new program that is designed to help business owner’s free up cash so they can pay their insurance premium’s monthly instead of in one lump sum. Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation benefits employers in three main ways:

  1. Pay as You Go Workers Compensation Insurance allows businesses to pay their premium monthly instead of in one large payment.
  2. Pay as You Go frees up cash flow for more immediate business needs.
  3. Pay as You Go prevents audits because both payroll and premiums are calculated monthly instead of yearly.

My Insurance Question can help you pick out the best Pay as You Go Workers' Compensation Insurance Policy.

Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage benefits businesses by allowing them to pay their insurance premium’s monthly based on the payroll of their workforce that month only. This is a great option for industries like construction, farming or landscaping. These industries sometimes have a hard time forecasting payroll because of the weather and many other factors. If your business deals with these types of issues than Pay Go may be a great option for you and your business.

 

Another benefit of Pay as You Go Workers’ Compensation Insurance is that it frees up cash flow for more immediate business needs. With a traditional Workers Comp policy typically twenty five percent of the premium is due all at once. The rest is usually paid in nine monthly payments. This means the business is spending money on insurance immediately that could be used on other more urgent business needs.

Pay as You Go Workers' Compensation Insurance

Finally, business owner’s benefit from Pay Go Workers’ Compensation Coverage because it prevents audits from happening more frequently. An end of term audit still happens, but Pay Go prevents audits from happening more frequently and makes the difference owed much smaller. With the monthly payment format there is less risk of over or underpaying the premium.