Hurt on the job? What to know about workers’ compensation in Massachusetts

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Workers’ compensation, which can provide cash and medical care to employees injured on the job, and benefits to survivors in cases of a work-related death, began with a federal program in 1908. It gave benefits to civilian workers whose jobs were hazardous and became the first kind of social insurance established across the United States.

By 1916, the rest of the federal workforce was covered. States meanwhile were enacting their workers’ compensation laws. All but six states and the District of Columbia had them by 1921.

Today, programs exist in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The details of each program vary by state. Four states—Ohio, North Dakota, Washington and Wyoming—require insurance be obtained through a state-administered fund rather than through a private insurer. Another option is to self-insure for approved businesses. Most states require some businesses to provide coverage and can levy substantial fines for failing to comply. South Dakota and Texas leave the choice to businesses, although Texas makes an exception for construction companies with a government contract.

Simply Business reviewed rules, statistics, and other information about workers’ compensation insurance—including the comprehensive breakdown by the National Federation of Independent Business—to offer a breakdown of what workers’ comp requirements in each state. Rules are subject to updates periodically, so it’s important to stay up-to-date based on your trade and location.

Workers’ Compensation in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, all businesses must have workers’ compensation insurance. Domestic employees must work 16 hours or more each week to be covered under a worker’s compensation policy. Some taxi drivers, workers involved in interstate or international commerce, those selling real estate or goods who are paid by commission, and others are exempt. Sole proprietors, partners and those working at limited liability companies are not required to carry coverage for themselves, though they may. Employers without insurance face stop work orders and minimum fines of $100 a day.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Costs, and Coverage, an October 2021 report from the National Academy of Social Insurance, found that total benefits paid to employees rose by 0.4% nationwide from 2015 to 2019. Cash benefits rose by 2%, but medical benefits fell by 1.1%. Standardized benefits fell— cash by 14% and medical benefits by 16.7%—over the same period.

Keep reading to see what workers’ compensation looks like for other states in your area.

Workers’ Compensation in Connecticut

Connecticut exempts businesses that can self-insure from workers’ compensation coverage. All others that have at least one full- or part-time or contract employee must provide it. Exceptions include corporate officers who can opt out, sole proprietors, partners, and employees who work in a home for 26 hours or less a week. A business without proper coverage can be fined $300 a day for each worker.

Workers’ Compensation in New Hampshire

Nonprofit organizations are counted among the businesses that must provide workers’ compensation coverage in New Hampshire, where the law applies to all employers with any workers, whether full-time, part-time or relatives. Sole proprietors, self-employed workers, and partners do not have to carry coverage. Nor is coverage required for corporations or limited liability companies with three or fewer executive officers and no additional employees. Insurance becomes mandatory once a fourth person is added. The penalty for failing to have coverage can be as high as $2,500 plus up to $100 per employee for each additional day.

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