News for Small Business — April 2013

News for Small Business - News for L&I small business 
customers and tips for saving time and money

This is a quartlerly roundup of L&I news for small business. Join our email list to get future newsletters in your inbox. You can also read previous editions.

April 2013:


A message from new L&I Director Joel Sacks

Diagram of the structured settlement process

L&I Director Joel Sacks

On January 16, Governor Jay Inslee appointed Joel Sacks to direct the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). Sacks most recently served as deputy commissioner of the state Employment Security Department and previously was deputy director of field services at L&I.

“One of the key values of my administration is to make it easy to do business with Labor & Industries. As an L&I customer, I can’t promise that you will always be happy with our decisions and the policies we have to carry out. But I will promise that we will do everything in our power to minimize the time and effort you spend in your interactions with us.”


Check out our new campaign to promote return to work

L&I has launched an advertising campaign, called “Working Solutions”, which encourages employers to provide light-duty jobs for their employees while they recover from workplace injuries. It also promotes online claim filing. By getting new claims to L&I faster, online filing speeds up efforts to help injured workers return to work. Learn more about the campaign in our news release.

Watch the 2 ads now playing on television and on the web:


Technology leading to changes for workers' compensation reports and payments

Woman using credit card to pay online

New credit card payment option
Business owners can now pay their workers’ compensation premiums online with a MasterCard, Discover, or American Express card. L&I’s new credit card payment option gives greater flexibility to employers who are facing cash flow challenges at the time premiums are due.

The credit card payment option is available for customers that report online using L&I’s “QuickFile” or “Claim and Account Center” and whose account isn’t in collections status. L&I is working to bring the credit card payment option to L&I service locations in the future.

Visa credit cards aren’t an option at this time because Visa’s policies don’t allow passing the processing fee to the user. There’s some indication that Visa’s requirements may change in the future.

Employers using credit cards will be assessed a processing fee of 2.5% of the payment amount as a matter of fairness. L&I is passing through the processing fee it’s charged by credit card companies, recognizing that to do otherwise would mean that late credit card payers would effectively be subsidized by on-time credit card payers.

The processing fee is less than the penalty and interest charges L&I would assess on late filings. L&I assesses a 5% penalty and 1% interest the first and second months a payment is late. The third month’s penalty is 10% of the unpaid premium and 1% interest. Beyond the third month, L&I charges 1% interest.

L&I moving to paperless filing
To save employers time and money, L&I will end paper quarterly report filings beginning in the 3rd quarter of 2013. L&I will allow employers who still want to file by paper reports to be given an “opt out” option.

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Does your service business need a contractor registration? It just might!

Man digging in plants.

If your service business includes creating garden beds or planting vegetation, you'll need to register with L&I as a contractor.

Every year, a number of people who run service businesses like yard maintenance, janitorial, roof cleaning, and garbage hauling, get ticketed by L&I.

Unfortunately, these business owners unwittingly performed job duties that required a contractor registration.

Fines can be steep – typically $1000 per violation, with a reduction to $500 if the business gets registered as a contractor within a short time.

Consider these examples:

Do you need a contractor registration?

Business Type

You don't need a contractor registration to do this…

But, if you do this…

You need this contractor registration…

Garbage Hauling

Most types of hauling including loading a pile of debris from a construction site onto your truck and hauling.

Cleaning up a construction site and hauling the debris away.

Construction Clean Up Or
General Contractor

Janitorial

Cleaning of commercial and residential businesses such as vacuuming carpets, cleaning bathrooms and kitchens.

Cleaning drywall mud from floors, removing splattered paint and drywall residue from windows, etc.

Construction Clean Up Or
General Contractor

Lawn Maintenance

Mowing lawns, pulling weeds, spreading fertilizer, edging, and trimming bushes.

Planting vegetation, layings paths, creating beds, creating ponds or using power equipment to clear brush.

Landscaping
Or
Excavation, grading, and land clearing
Or
General Contractor

Hedge Trimming & Pruning

Trimming hedges and pruning trees with clippers or loppers .

Cutting branches with power tools or saws, felling trees, grinding or removing stumps.

Tree Removal
Or
General Contractor

Pressure Washing

Pressure washing sidewalks, driveways, or vehicles.

Pressure washing any building, deck, or other built structure.

Pressure Washing
Or
General Contractor

Roof Cleaning

Raking, sweeping, brushing, applying chemicals, or using a garden hose to clean a roof.

Using a pressure washer, replacing shingles, patching holes, or doing any repair or replacement work.

Pressure Washing
Or
Roofing
Or
General Contractor

Pest Control

Applying pest control chemicals or setting traps in or around structures.

Cutting or drilling into walls or studs to set traps or apply chemicals, or patching holes in structures.

Structural Pest Control
Or
General Contractor

Duct Cleaning

Using manual tools to or vacuums to clean the duct system of a building.

Cutting access holes in sheet metal, detaching or reattaching duct work, replacing or repairing any part of the system, or pressuring duct work.

HVAC
Or
General Contractor

If you are in these or similar industries, give us a call (1-800-987-0145) and we can tell you if contractor registration is necessary. See our website for more on how to properly register as a contractor.

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Are unwanted L&I courtesy copies bogging you down? eCorrespondence for claims documents is on its way!

By May 2013, L&I will offer all of its customers the option to receive most claim-related L&I correspondence and legal orders electronically – a move we hope will remove a major paperwork burden for providers and employers in Washington.

How will eCorrespondence work?

What the new eCorrespondence for claims will look like.

An example of what an eCorrespondence inbox will look like.

You will be given the option to choose either electronic or paper-mail delivery of your claims-related documents. Each working day you have new correspondence, you will receive an email containing a link to your eCorrespondence inbox.

How will I be able to identify what’s in my incoming mail?
Your eCorrespondence inbox will display information about each document, including the topic of the document, whether it’s a courtesy copy, and if action is requested. You then will be able route, delete, and sort your mail in a variety of ways.

Will I access my eCorrespondence in L&I’s Claims and Account Center?
No. We’re always working on new online services, but at this point, eCorrespondence will instead be delivered to the email address of the person you choose to administer your incoming mail.

Will I be able to reply to the messages that I get in the eCorrespondence inbox?
Not at this time. After you delete what you don’t need, you’ll route your mail to your own system so you can read, file or respond to it in any way that works best for you.

How will L&I let me know when this service is available?
We'll have announcements on our website, on the back of every claims-related envelope you receive, and on much of the correspondence you receive. At that time, you will sign up for eCorrespondence through Secure Access Washington by “adding a new service.” Your service will begin the day after you sign up.

Should I start planning for eCorrespondence now?
We recommend it. After all, you now have staff assigned to opening and routing your paper claims correspondence. Think about how you’ll make the switch to an electronic inbox.

  • Decide who in your organization will be the main administrator for your eCorrespondence account. This person will be in charge of assigning who else in your organization may have eCorrespondence access. If your claims are handled by another company or industry association, discuss how you will coordinate .
  • You will be able to save your incoming eCorrespondence to your own system. Think about how you want to organize and distribute this mail. Your eCorrespondence inbox will display much information about what each piece of mail contains (unlike a plain L&I envelope).
  • Talk with your administrative staff about how to take advantage of the time savings. We hope eCorrespondence will save you time, hassle, and money. In fact, our efforts to make electronic correspondence a legal option was in response to many requests from many large employers and health care providers. Opening, sorting, and routing email – rather than unlabeled paper envelopes – usually takes less time.

Are there any documents L&I still must send through the US Postal Service?
Yes. The law still requires L&I to send orders that communicate claim closure and any correspondence that requires special handling by mail in its “paper” form.

What about customers who like getting paper correspondence?
They won’t have to do a thing. They'll simply continue to receive their correspondence in paper form.

Can I sign up to get other types of L&I correspondence in electronic form?
We’re working on it, but not yet. Making eCorrespondence an option for claims-related letters and orders was the first phase of our project.

Were employers involved in creating eCorrespondence?
Yes. As always, when we create a new application or web site, we test its ease of use and practicality with typical users – in this case, employers, health care providers, workers and attorneys. This means that in addition to looking for ideas, we actually watch to see how easily typical users can perform certain tasks. If it’s too confusing, we change it before we launch.

Watch for more information about eCorrespondence.

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RESOURCES

A few minutes of your time can get you valuable small business training

Man listening to a podcast on a mobile device.

Small business owners can get free business training right from their home computer or hand-held device with podcasts from the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC supports Washington's small businesses by providing free business advising services.

Each podcast is 3-5 minutes long and covers topics such as hiring, getting loans, advertising and much more.

Some featured podcasts are:

  • Hire Right the First Time
  • Law of Contracts and the Small Business Owner
  • Low Cost Marketing Strategies
  • Business Survival in Tough Times

You can get these and other podcasts on the SBDC website. Or, for other no-cost business assistance, go to www.wsbdc.org.

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