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    A Production Accountant's Guide Workers' Compensation

    Hearing the term “workers’ compensation” might induce groans in some, but for production accountants, a workers’ compensation (workers’ comp) policy is more than a mandatory expense. It provides a safety net for the entire cast and crew, as it takes care of them if an accident or illness happens during production. 

    Remember: The more you take care of your team, the better they’ll perform

    And, it’s just the right thing to do.

    In this guide, we’ll outline essential information every production accounting team needs to know. 

    Use this info to help you navigate the complexities of workers’ comp and provide the right protections for members of the cast and crew. 

    What is workers’ compensation?

    First, the basics. 

    Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that covers injuries an employee sustains during the course of their employment while on the job working. It is designed to protect both companies and employees by making sure injured employees receive medical care and financial compensation when they become ill or injured through their employment. 

    Workers’ compensation benefits may include: 

    • Medical expenses associated with the illness or injury
    • Lost wages due to illness or injury
    • Temporary or permanent disability benefits
    • Rehabilitation services (physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.)

    Additionally, in the case of a work-related fatality, workers’ compensation may cover death benefits such as funeral costs or financial support to surviving family members. 

    When is workers’ compensation required?

    Workers’ compensation is largely governed at the state level. 

    This means, production accountants must know the specific laws of the state they’re filming in. Currently, 49 states require employers to purchase some level of workers’ compensation for their employees. However, coverage requirements vary significantly from state to state.

    State law may differ based on: 

    • Number of employees. Most states require workers’ compensation for businesses with one or more employees. Some states have higher thresholds, such as Alabama with three and Georgia with five.
    • Employment status. States differ on whether part-time, seasonal, or temporary workers must be covered. They also differ on whether independent contractors and freelancers have similar workers’ compensation requirements. 
    • Benefits required. The types of benefits required under the workers’ compensation policy vary as well. Medical and disability benefits, as well as wage replacement amounts, depend on the state where you’re filming. 
    • Insurance provider. A handful of states, called "monopolistic," require that all in-state coverage is provided by state-run insurance entities. New York, New Jersey and Cali, meanwhile, work under the direction of their own State Workers Compensation Boards; and an organization called the National Console on Capitalization Insurance (NCCI), oversees the majority of the other states.

    Smaller or shorter productions often struggle to secure the workers’ compensation coverage they need at an affordable rate. Many choose to purchase their workers’ compensation coverage through a payroll services provider, such as Greenslate. 

    Note: It’s highly recommended to review the state-specific laws, and consult with your insurance agent, prior to purchasing a workers’ compensation policy. 

    What is an employer responsible for?

    When it comes to workers’ compensation, production teams should be proactive. This starts by maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. This not only ensures the team is protected, but also reduces the risk of a workers’ compensation claim. 

    Basic workplace safety includes: 

    • Identifying potential threats (materials, equipment, etc.)
    • Using proper safety equipment and attire
    • Educating employees and contractors
    • Escalating concerns in a timely manner

    Beyond workplace safety, employers are responsible for several workers’ compensation factors. First, the employer must maintain state-mandated coverage for all applicable workers. Second, the employer is responsible for notifying team members — for most states, this means required signs must be posted in a visible location. Check with your local state’s rules and regulations to confirm what is mandated versus what is not. 

    Finally, employers are responsible for acting quickly when a work injury occurs. For many teams, the process looks something like this: 

    • Provide immediate medical assistance. The top priority is the health of your team. Respond to any urgent needs by calling emergency services, providing first aid, or helping the employee identify a designated medical provider. 
    • Report the injury. Many states require a mandatory report — some in as little as 24 hours after the injury. Make sure you follow state requirements. Your company may also have an internal process that needs to be completed. 
    • Notify the insurance carrier. Next, it’s important to let the insurance carrier know about the injury as soon as possible. This is most often accomplished with a claim form that is submitted to the insurance carrier and / or insurance agency.
    • Maintain records and communication. Throughout the process, it’s important to document actions taken by the company, the worker, and other interested parties (state agency, insurance carrier). Additionally, work to maintain open lines of communication for all parties involved. 
    • Implement a return-to-work program. Once the employee or worker is medically ready to return to work, it’s important to develop and implement a return-to-work plan. Based on the nature of the illness or injury, this may include modified responsibilities or work hours. 

    How can production teams set themselves up for success?

    When it comes to illness or injury, the unknown can be hard to prepare for. But savvy production teams know the importance of planning for any scenario, big or small. 

    ✅ Start by initiating workers’ compensation efforts early in production planning. Identify the right coverage for your team — based on state requirements — and work with a seasoned insurance agent to secure the policy and provider that’s right for you. This will protect your production from day one. 

    ✅ Continue by carefully considering workplace conditions and how you can reduce risk. If your team, for example, is shooting on-site during winter, provide hand warmers and shelters to keep them from falling ill. Small actions can minimize major impacts to the health of your team and the timeline of your production. 

    ✅ Lastly, plan ahead and manage claims efficiently. Consider developing a standard process for tasks like employee education, claim response, and recordkeeping. Make sure essential members of your team know the process and how to follow it. Also, when an injury occurs, take action immediately. This will help you stay within state requirements and reach a resolution faster. 

    When it comes to workers’ compensation — as with many other parts of a production — a little planning goes a long way. 

    Are you fully protecting your team and production?

    To do so, keep your workers’ compensation accurate and in place. This policy not only offers a safety net for workers, it also keeps your production moving forward with healthy, productive team members. 

    Consider these actions:

    1. Identify your state-specific workers’ compensation requirements 
    2. Work with an experienced broker to put a policy in place early
    3. Educate and protect production team members with safety essentials
    4. Respond promptly to any injuries and workers’ comp claims

    Illness and injury don’t have to put your production behind schedule. With the right combination of proactive safety and protective insurance, you can take care of your #1 asset: your team. 

    ✅ Connect with GreenSlate for a demo to learn more about our innovative all-in-one production payroll solution.

    Topics: Production
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