Washington Labor Department: Keep Workers’ Comp Rates Steady For 2021

Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries is proposing no increase in the average price employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance next year.

If the proposal is adopted, this will be the first time in 20 years that workers’ comp rates have dropped or stayed steady for four years in a row, according to L&I

“Our 2021 rate proposal recognizes the toll the pandemic is taking on employers and workers in our state,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a statement. “Although our projected workers’ compensation costs are going up, we’re keeping premiums the same by taking advantage of the reserves we’ve built over the years by improving services and reducing disability.”

While financial projections point to the need for a significant increase to cover all of the costs for injuries and illnesses that occur in 2021, the agency is proposing using funds from the workers’ comp’s contingency reserve to keep the rate from climbing.

L&I said it has focused on preparing for a downturn in the economy by building workers’ comp reserve funds and keeping rates steady and predictable, in part through improvements and reforms. These include implementing vocational recovery services to support return to work for injured workers and employers, and using best practices in occupational health and vocational services.

Washington charges for workers compensation coverage based on hours worked. When looking at rates as a percentage of payroll, rates in Washington have gone down each of the last 10 years.

With the proposed overall rate change of zero percent, the average premium per employee is not expected to change overall. However, there will be changes by class and employer.

Workers will pay on average about a quarter of the premium, a similar percentage to that paid in 2020.

L&I will begin taking public comment on the rate proposal on Sept. 22. Public hearings on the rate proposal will be held virtually this year. Two hearings are scheduled to take input about the rate proposal before a final decision is made. Final rates will be adopted by Nov. 30 and go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Public hearings are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Oct. 27 and 29. These hearings are being held via ZOOM and by phone to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of people attending in-person public gatherings.

2021 rate hearings:

Oct. 27 at 10 a.m.

Joining by computer:

Joining by phone:

Oct. 29 at 10 a.m.

Joining by computer:

Joining by phone:

Comments in writing can be submitted to: Jo Anne Attwood, administrative regulations analyst, P.O. Box 41448, Olympia, WA 98504-4148; or email JoAnne.Attwood@Lni.wa.gov. All comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct 30.