Help for Small Business

Top 20 Small Business Questions

I'm hiring employees for the first time. What do I need to do?

Existing business: Read Section 2 of the Grow chapter ( of the Washington Small Business Guide (

Brand new business: Read Section 10 of the Start chapter ( of the Washington Small Business Guide (

Can I just hire independent contractors? They're easier than employees.

Careful! State and federal laws have strict requirements covering who qualifies as an independent contractor. You could be liable for workers' comp and unemployment claims.

For further information, read Section 2 of the Grow chapter ( of the Washington Small Business Guide (

More help with independent contractors

Three questions you can ask yourself to find out if you are hiring independent contractors (F101-063-000) or if they are really employees.

Which government permits, licenses and tax registrations do I need?

Read the Start chapter ( of the Washington Small Business Guide ( It will give you information and links tailored to your industry and location.

I own a business. Am I required to have workers' comp coverage on myself?

No. Owners of businesses (sole proprietors), exempt corporate officers, and partners aren't required to have workers' comp coverage in this state. LLC members generally are exempt from workers' comp but there are exceptions to that rule, depending on the structure of the LLC.

Find details about LLCs and coverage on pages 8 and 9 of the Workers' Compensation Recordkeeping and Reporting Guides (F212-222-000).

You may choose to have workers' comp coverage ("elective coverage") if you and other corporate officers/LLC members are exempt. Contact L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817 or fill out the Elective Coverage application form (F213-042-000).

What do I do if I can't pay my workers' compensation bill?

The L&I Employer Assistance Program (32 KB PDF) may be able to help. First, even if you can't pay your quarterly report on time, always file your report on-time to prevent L&I from estimating and collecting a higher estimated tax. Second, contact us in advance if you know you will not be able to make your quarterly premium payment. If you have a good payment record, you may be given extra time to make your payment. Contact your L&I account manager. If your payment is already overdue, call the number on the monthly billing statement.

Can I make payments on my delinquent premiums if I have not paid on time?

In many cases, yes. Contact the revenue agent listed on the monthly billing statement or Notice and Order of Assessment or call 1-800-301-1826 and tell us that you would like to negotiate a payment agreement. You may need to provide financial information to the revenue agent, depending on the length of the payment agreement.

A notice in the mail says I must buy their workplace posters or risk a big fine from the government. Is this true?

No. You aren't required to purchase workplace posters from these marketing firms. However, state law does require employers to post workplace posters, which you can get free of charge from L&I and other agencies. We will mail them to you free of charge. You can order posters online ( or call an L&I office near you (

How do I estimate workers' comp costs for a business I am planning?

Contact the L&I Small Business Liaison or L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817. An L&I account manager will determine your correct workers' comp risk class and the rate you would pay per employee hour worked.

Do I need to register as a construction contractor?

You must be a registered contractor if you do any of the following types of work or if you offer or submit a bid to

  • construct;
  • alter;
  • repair;
  • consult of superintend;
  • add to or subtract from real property;
  • improve, move, wreck or demolish;
  • develop residential property for sale; or
  • install cabinets, remove trees, or "flip" houses.

More help with contractor registration

Learn the basics about being a contractor in Washington State.

What do I have to do to meet the state's requirements for a "safe" workplace?

Learn how to get started in safety and health. This section of our website features the following:

  • Safety and health checklists.
  • Injury fact sheets.
  • A-Z safety and health topics.
  • Required training and plans.
  • Sample accident prevention programs.

Can I drug test my employees?

Yes, under certain guidelines. For more information contact:

Washington State Drug-Free Business Initiative

My employee filed an injury claim. Does that mean my rates will go up?

Possibly. An employer's rates are affected if the claim becomes a compensable claim. A claim is compensable when L&I pays an injured worker for lost wages, a partial permanent disability payment (PPD) or a pension.

A claim that requires only medical treatment and not payments for missed work or a disability is considered non-compensable. If you have a claim-free discount, medical-only claims never count against your rates, regardless of the cost.

An employer may choose to keep an injured worker on full salary and benefits while the worker recovers from a workplace injury rather than have the worker receive L&I time-loss benefits. In some cases, this can be financially beneficial to an employer. Read more about managing a claim in the Employer's Return-to-Work Guide (F200-003-000).

Can I pay for my injured worker's medical expenses?

No. By law, an employer can't pay for an injured worker's medical expenses associated with an on-the-job injury.

As an employer, do I have to report or keep track of all workplace injuries?

All Employers in Washington State are required to report any death or in-patient hospitalization of any employee within 8 hours of the incident occurring to L&I's Division of Occupational Safety & Health, 1-800-423-7233. Non-hospitalized amputations or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours of the incident. For further information, learn more about reporting workplace injuries.

Beyond that, most employers are required to record workplace injuries and illnesses on an OSHA 300 log. Such information can be used to identify hazards and refine your workplace health and safety programs.

For a better understanding of state injury reporting requirements, along with applicable forms, see the L&I Division of Occupational Safety & Health description of OSHA 300 reporting requirements.

I have an injury claim. What do I do?

Use our employer's guide to injury claims to help you respond to a workplace injury claim. If you need help, contact the claim manager for your claim. Their name and phone number will be on claim documents sent to you. You may also contact an L&I Small Business Liaison.

Where can I get the training I need to avoid L&I compliance problems?

Go to L&I's Workshop & Training Center to get information about workshops, training and certification programs offered by L&I, as well as online courses and a number of other resources.

End of main content, page footer follows.

Access Washington official state portal

   © Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. Use of this site is subject to the laws of the state of Washington.

Help us improve