News for Small Business - News for L&I small business customers and tips for saving time and moneyI
December 2008

Workers' compensation insurance premiums increasing by 3 percent

Premiums for workers’ compensation insurance will go up, on average, 3 percent in 2009 — the same change that was proposed by L&I in September.

Individual employers could see their rates change by more or less than the average 3 percent, depending on their recent claims history and any changes in the frequency and cost of claims in their industry.

You can find the “base” or average rate for your firm’s risk class online at www.Rates.Lni.wa.gov. Rate notices with your specific 2009 rates will be mailed in mid-December, or you can call your L&I account manager and get your rates now. Your account manager’s phone number is printed on the lower left corner of your quarterly report statement, or you can call L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817.

Insurance actuary calculations, based on anticipated injured-worker claims next year and on wage and medical inflation, indicated the need for a 6.3 percent average premium increase. However, L&I chose a 3 percent average increase and will absorb the cost by using its contingency reserve fund.

The workers’ compensation system’s contingency reserve has dropped from $1.6 billion in September to approximately $990 million in the volatile financial markets. All workers’ comp insurers maintain contingency reserves. Washington’s contingency reserve has one of the lowest ratios of reserves to liabilities. It currently is 9.7 percent of the total liabilities, which now stand at $10.2 billion.

As part of the Gov. Chris Gregoire’s economic stimulus package, L&I will be working with business and labor and the governor to evaluate whether more can be done in 2009 to help businesses survive and workers stay employed. Watch this newsletter for more information as it becomes available.

Travel time policy updated due to “Brink’s” court decision

A state Supreme Court decision has caused L&I to update its policy that tells employers whether they must pay workers when driving a company-provided vehicle between home and the first or last job site of the day.

The new policy, which responds to the Washington State Supreme Court ruling Stevens v. Brink’s Home Security, addresses issues such as:

  • When travel or commute-time driving in a company-provided vehicle constitutes paid work time.
  • Factors to consider when deciding if an employee is “on duty” when driving a company-provided vehicle between home and work.
  • Factors to consider when deciding if an employee is “on the employer’s premises or at a prescribed work place” when driving a company-provided vehicle between home and work.
  • Examples of when a worker must be paid for driving time and when they are considered to be on personal time.

If your employees use a company-provided vehicle between home and the first or last job of the day, be sure you read section 2 of Administrative Policy ES.C.2 Hours Worked, which can be found on the L&I Web site.

New minimum wage posters coming soon

L&I will mail the new 2009 Washington State minimum wage posters with the workers’ compensation quarterly reports mailed to employers in December. If you file your quarterly reports online, watch for a downloadable version of the minimum wage poster on the L&I Web site in mid-January.

Many employers choose to post the minimum wage poster, although the state only recommends that the poster be posted. Employers are not required to post it.

The new minimum wage of $8.55 an hour will take effect on January 1, 2009, as required by Initiative 688, approved by voters in 1998.

Tools to save time and money

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New online quarterly reporting system easier to use

L&I’s new online quarterly reporting system offers two ways to file your quarterly reports, including a “Quick File” feature that allows you to file your quarterly report in just a few minutes.

Quick File is great when you just want to file your report and pay your premiums, because you don’t have to go through online security screens to use this system. The more robust Claim and Account Center does require secure access, but rewards the extra effort by providing extensive information about an employer’s workers’ compensation account and active claims.

Both options can be found on the L&I Web site at www.QuarterlyReports.Lni.wa.gov. They’re catching on quickly, with more than 50,000 employers having successfully filed their third-quarter workers’ compensation reports last month using the new system.

Accountants and bookkeepers are also taking advantage of a new feature that allows them to see all of their clients’ accounts on one screen, then access information about them or file quarterly reports. Setting up this new feature takes some extra effort at the beginning, so please see the Accountant Instructions online to add new accounts to the system or correct any errors you have found on your list.

If you need help accessing or using the new system, please contact your L&I account manager or call L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817.

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New online video teaches the basics on state business taxes

Plan & Pay TaxesA new online video available from the L&I Web site walks you through the basics of state business taxes and required insurance. This 20-minute presentation covers how to plan for, file and pay six different taxes and insurance premiums that business owners may need to pay:

  • Business and occupation tax (B&O).
  • Sales tax.
  • Use tax.
  • Litter tax.
  • Unemployment insurance tax.
  • Workers’ compensation premiums.

The video also provides Web links that provide more detailed information, and contacts where you can get your questions answered.
You can find the video on L&I’s small-business page at www.SmallBusiness.Lni.wa.gov. Click on the “Training Opportunities” tab at the top of the page, then select the link for the video.

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L&I employer training and workshops for December

Build your skills for managing workplace safety, workers’ comp and construction contracting at an L&I workshop or training session near you. Sign up for a free service that will regularly send the latest training calendar straight to your e-mail. Just click this link: www.lni.wa.gov/Main/Listservs/LNITraining.asp.

To view the December workshops calendar sent to our current subscribers back in October, select the “View the archives” link on the sign-up page, then select “October ‘08.”

Washington State Legislative Building

Rules, regulations and laws update

Overtime now includes out-of-state hours for truckers

Trucking and bus industry employers, please be aware of new rules for paying overtime to interstate truck drivers that took effect on November 22, 2008.

L&I adopted the new rules in response to the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision in Bostain v Food Express Inc. (159 Wn.2d 700, 153 p.3d 846 (2007)). Prior to the Bostain decision, L&I required employers of interstate truck drivers and bus drivers to pay overtime based only on hours worked in Washington state. The court determined that state law (RCW 49.46.130(2)(f)) requires an employer of an interstate truck driver to include hours spent working out of state for overtime purposes.

For more information on the rule changes, please visit:
http://www.Lni.wa.gov/LawRule/WhatsNew/Proposed/default.asp?
RuleUpdateID=516&RuleID=284

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L&I to enforce installation requirements for manufactured buildings

If you install manufactured homes or other pre-fabricated buildings, you should know about state rules that are now being enforced by L&I. Violating these rules could lead to citations and penalties.

L&I now has authority to conduct on-site inspections and issue infractions to any person or company involved with installing a manufactured building. L&I is enforcing the following requirements:

  • A certified installer must be on the installation site whenever installation work is being performed.
  • Problems with an installation found by the local enforcement agency or L&I inspector must be corrected within 30 days after the infraction was issued.
  • A certified installer must attach a certification tag to an installed manufactured or mobile home.
  • Certification tags cannot be transferred from a certified installer to a non-certified installer.
  • Unused installer certification tags cannot be transferred by a manufactured-home retailer to a new ownership without prior written approval of L&I.

For more information and contacts for the L&I Factory Assembled Structures program, please go to www.FAS.Lni.wa.gov.

You can find these rules in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 296-150I). For more information, please follow this link: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=296-150I.

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