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Information for Employers

  •  Am I required to provider workers' compensation insurance?  Essentially, yes. The rule of thumb is that any employer who regularly employs four or more workers full-time or part-time is required to have workers' compensation insurance. There are some exceptions, including agricultural employees, railroads, and railway express companies and their employees, and employers who had a total annual payroll during the previous year of less than $3,000, regardless of the number of workers employed during that period. Also exempt are Textile Hall Corporation and certain commission paid real estate agents. Although most employers must purchase workers' compensation insurance, any employer may purchase coverage.
  • Can an employer who is required to have workers' compensation insurance elect NOT to cover its employees?  No.
  • What are the benefits of workers' compensation insurance for employers and employees?  Workers' compensation pays for a portion of lost wages and medical care provided to employees who are injured on the job. Workers' compensation also compensates employees who suffer permanent disability or disfigurement. It is a no-fault approach which limits the employer's liability to those benefits provided by the Workers' Compensation Act. It is an inclusive remedy for on-the-job injuries.
  • Who is an employee for workers' compensation purposes?  The definition of an employee is quite broad. It includes full-time and part-time workers, adults and minors, and others who have been hired to do certain jobs. The critical test is the degree of control the employer exercises over the worker. The law also recognizes "statutory employees." These are employees who work for a subcontractor who may be working for a business or another contractor. Employers should inquire whether or not a subcontractor working for them has workers' compensation insurance, regardless of the number of employees employed by the subcontractor. If the subcontractor does not, the subcontractor's injured employees would be covered under the employer's workers' compensation insurance.
  • Are volunteers covered under South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act and covered in the event of an injury?  No, unpaid volunteers are considered to be gratuitous employees, and are not subject to the Workers' Compensation Act. Organizations that utilize volunteers can obtain coverage/insurance for volunteers.
  • Can sole proprietors or partners elect to be covered under workers' compensation?  Yes. Sole proprietors and partners are considered owners of the business and are not automatically included under workers' compensation insurance. They may elect to be covered if they are active in the business and have duly informed their insurance carrier. When a sole proprietorship or partnership incorporates, all employees are automatically covered, including the owners if they are also employees of the corporation.
  • Is the owner of a business or the principal contractor on a job liable for workers' compensation benefits to an employee or subcontractor?  Yes. If the subcontractor does not carry workers' compensation insurance, then the owner or the principal contractor would be liable just as if the subcontractor's employee was one of their employees.
  • Can an employer require employees to pay for workers' compensation insurance or some of their medical costs?  No. It is illegal to require employees to pay any portion of the premium for workers' compensation insurance or to pay for any medical treatment resulting from a job-related injury.
  • How are workers' compensation premiums determined?  To put it in simple terms:  how much an employer pays for workers' compensation insurance is determined by the number of employees, their total wages, the type of jobs they perform, and the employer's history of accidents and claims. Insurance companies assign rates to each type of job, charging more to cover riskier jobs. While the rates are regulated by the S.C. Department of Insurance, it is a competitive market and the rates differ for different insurance companies.
  • Can an employer self-insure for workers' compensation?  Yes. Hundreds of employers in South Carolina are self-insured. In order to self-insure, an employer must apply, meet certain financial and other requirements, and be approved by the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission. An employer may self-insure as an individual organization, or as part of a group self-insurance pool or fund. Self-insured employers and funds are regulated by the Commission. They are required to maintain reinsurance and a surety bond or letter of credit in an amount specified by the Commission. Our Self-Insurance Division has more information.
  • What is an employer required to do when an accident occurs on the job?  The employer's first obligation is to make sure the employee receives medical attention. The employer is also required to report the injury to the insurance carrier, which reports it to the Commission. Minor injuries, as defined by the Commission, do not have to be reported (Regulation 67-411).
  • What options does the employer have in case of a disagreement with the injured employee about compensation or medical treatment?  An employer can request a hearing before a Commissioner, as can the injured employee. This hearing is usually held in the county in which the injury occurred.
  • How is compensation determined for an injury?  Workers' compensation pays for necessary medical treatment, loss of wages during the disability, and compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement. If an injured employee is unable to work for more than seven days, the employee is eligible for payment for lost wages. This compensation is limited to two-thirds of the employee's weekly wage, limited to the current weekly wage in South Carolina. If the employee is out of work for more than 14 days, the employee is entitled to compensation from the day of the accident. The award for total disability or death is limited by law to compensation for 500 weeks. Paraplegics, quadriplegics, and brain-damaged workers are eligible for lifetime benefits. Compensation for partial disability is determined by the Commission from medical reports, testimony of the parties, and the impact of the disability on the injured employee's livelihood.
  • Who determines whether an individual is an employee for workers' compensation purposes?  The state agency charged with settling disputes such as these and with administering workers' compensation is the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission. The Commission is governed by seven commissioners, each appointed to a six-year term by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
  • Who settles disputes over whether an injury occurred on the job?  The commissioners are responsible for hearing and deciding contested cases, for conducting informal conferences with employers and employees, and for approving settlements and hearing appeals. A single commissioner hears the case first. The commissioner's decision may be appealed to the full Commission, and in turn to courts at various levels.