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If you are a contractor that does not have any employees and you have a contract that requires you to have a workers compensation policy, then you have likely heard of a ghost policy. What does this term mean though? A ghost policy is an industry term that typically refers to a workers compensation policy that is issued in the residual market through the North Carolina Rate Bureau. The term ghost policy is used as a reference to a workers compensation policy that has no employees. With an increasing number of contractors requiring their independent subcontractors to have a worker compensation policy, there needed to be a policy that these subs could get even if they didn’t have employees themselves. These policies were created to give these independent subs a way to get the needed certificate of insurance.

Why do contractors need you to have a workers compensation policy if you have no employees?

The reason you are being asked to have this policy is because it transfers the liability to you if you are hurt while you are on a job. If you have your own workers compensation policy in place, then it would be your policy to pay out if you are hurt. The main reason you are being asked to have this policy though is because it keeps the general contractor’s workers comp rate down. If they pay you as a 1099 independent sub contractor then your pay from them will not figured into their audited workers comp premium.

What is vital to know with ghost policies?

  1. Do your audit. When asked for information from your workers compensation company it is very important that you respond in a timely manner. The insurance company can increase your rate, withhold a refund, or mark you as non-compliant which hinders your ability to get a policy in the future.

  2. Make sure to 1099 any subcontractors under you AND make sure you get a certificate of insurance for them in order to keep your overall workers compensation rate down. If you have W-2 employees then their pay will count towards your workers comp premium. If you don’t get a certificate of insurance for your independent 1099 subs then their pay will also count towards your workers compensation premiums.

  3. The workers compensation policy will not cover you and your injuries as the owner if you don’t elect coverage for yourself. In an effort to keep the rate down, most owners exclude coverage for themselves. You must remember this if you are ever hurt though as there will be no coverage at all for your injuries if you reject coverage for yourself.

  4. The NC Rate Bureau will assign your policy to a specific company. If you have had a policy in the past then it will likely be the same carrier since they have your policy history.

  5. Workers comp policies are always estimated premiums. We never know what our true payroll will be unless we have 0 employees. It is for this reason that your policy premium is estimated. The true cost of the premium will be settled after the audit.

Why are workers compensation policies so expensive?

These premiums can be expensive depending on what your class code is. Typically exposures such as office work are very inexpensive because the risk value is so low. This is not true for classifications such as carpentry and roofing risks. The reason for the hefty premiums is due to the risk level and the fact that it will not only payout for their medical bills if they are injured, but also to their loss of time at work. When there is a claim, these total payouts can be very significant.

What kind of items are needed for an audit?

Below are a list of some of the more common items that are requested when you are completing a workers compensation audit. It is important that you keep accurate records leading up to the audit.

  • 941 payroll reports

  • Schedule C of your income tax return for the business

  • Ledgers and journals for the business

  • Business check books

  • List of independent 1099 subcontractors

  • Bank statements

North Carolina Rate Bureau residual policies, known as ghost polices, can be a very important part of your business requirements in getting work from other contractors. It is important that you take them seriously and that you arm yourself with all of the information needed to ensure that you don’t see extremely high rates. You also want to protect yourself as an employer from very expensive lawsuits. You should have a lengthy discussion with your agent to see if this policy type is something that will be beneficial to you.