How Are Workers Compensation Premiums Calculated?

Understanding how workers’ compensation premiums are calculated is crucial for both employers and employees.

The process involves several factors that contribute to the variability in premiums across different policies and insurers.

an image illustration of Workers Compensation Premiums
Workers Compensation Premiums

In this complete guide, we’ll delve into the world of workers’ compensation calculations, shedding light on key variables that influence the final premium amounts.

Factors Influencing Workers’ Compensation Premiums

  • Annual Payroll: The foundation of workers’ compensation calculations lies in a company’s annual payroll. Insurance providers often project premiums based on the total payroll, encompassing full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees. Larger payrolls generally result in higher premium costs.
    Payroll Elements Impacting Premiums Payroll Elements with No Impact
    – Wages and salaries – Bonuses
    – Overtime pay – Severance pay
    – Vacation pay – Reimbursements
    – Tips – Expense allowances

    After each fiscal year, insurers reassess payroll, leading to potential premium adjustments.

  • Job Classification Code: Job classification codes, or class codes, play a pivotal role in premium calculations. These four-digit codes signify the nature of a job and its associated risks. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) or state workers’ compensation bureaus establish class codes, each with a corresponding rate indicating the premium amount per $100 in salaries.

State-wise Classification Systems

State Group Classification System
NCCI States National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) Job Classification System
Eleven States State-specific rating systems
Monopolistic States North Dakota, Ohio, Wyoming, Washington (No recognition of workers’ compensation coverage from other states)
  • Experience Modification Rate (EMR): A company’s claims history influences premiums through the experience modification rate (EMR). Ranging from 0.75 to 1.25, with 1.0 being the industry average, EMR compares a business’s claims history against the industry norm. An EMR above 1.0 (debit mod) signifies higher losses, increasing premiums, while a rating below 1.0 (credit mod) may result in reduced premiums.

Sample Premium Calculation

Let’s illustrate the calculation using a hypothetical example.

Consider a plumbing business with a $120,000 annual payroll, a class code of 5183 for plumbers with a rate of $1.68, and an EMR of 1.0.

Applying the formula:

Premium=(Payroll100)×Class Code Rate× EMR

The estimated annual premium is $2,016.

However, actual premiums may vary based on state-specific rules.

States with Highest Rates

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), different states exhibit varying workers’ compensation rates.

The top 15 states with the highest rates are highlighted in the accompanying table.

How workers comp is calculated sample computation
States With The Highest Workers Comp Rates

Understanding Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation ensures that employees receive state-mandated compensation without any predefined cap.

This provides a crucial safety net in times of injury or work-related illnesses.

This aspect of the insurance serves as a cornerstone in fostering a secure and supportive work environment.

On the other hand, employers’ liability, the second integral component, serves as a shield against potential employee lawsuits.

This facet of the insurance is designed to protect employers, subject to a monetary limit, offering a crucial layer of defense in the face of legal challenges.

In essence, Workers’ Compensation Insurance stands as a comprehensive framework, addressing the dual needs of employees and employers.

It thereby contributes to a workplace environment that values both safety and fairness.

How to handle workers compensation audits

The first step to handle workers compensation audits is to prepare in advance.

Before the audit, you should gather and organize all the documents and records that the auditor may request, such as payroll reports, tax returns, employee classifications, certificates of insurance, injury reports, and medical bills.

You should also review your payroll and claims records for any errors or inconsistencies and correct them before the audit.

The second step to handle workers compensation audits is to cooperate with the auditor.

During the audit, you should be courteous and helpful to the auditor and answer any questions they may have.

You should also provide them with access to your records and documents and explain any unusual or complex situations.

For example, if you have employees who work in different states or industries, you should clarify how you classified and reported them.

You should avoid arguing or hiding information from the auditor, as this may raise suspicion and lead to further investigation.

You should also ask the auditor for feedback and suggestions on how to improve your workers compensation


Navigating the problem of workers’ compensation premium calculations is important for businesses and employees alike.

By understanding the role of payroll, job classification codes, and experience modification rates, stakeholders can make informed decisions and ensure adequate coverage.

Regular assessments, safety programs, and adherence to state regulations contribute to an optimized workers’ compensation strategy.


Q: How do they figure out workers’ comp costs?

A: Find out about the important things like how much you pay your workers, the job type, and your safety track record, which all affect how much you pay for workers’ compensation.

Q: What makes workers’ comp rates change?

A: Things like what your state requires, how risky your industry is, how much you pay your employees, and the job types in your business can impact how much you’ll need to pay for workers’ comp. Understand these details to get a good estimate of your cost.

Q: Can companies lower workers’ comp expenses?

A: Yes, by regularly checking what you pay, making sure job classifications are right, correctly handling payroll, and thinking about pay-as-you-go options. This can help you save money and make sure you’re paying the right amount.


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