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Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation: What It Is, How It Works, & More

By March 6, 2023May 6th, 2023Insurance
Wisconsin business and industry brown wooden highway welcome sign.

Insurance rates and requirements for Workers’ compensation (aka workers’ comp or workman’s comp) are set at the state level, making every state’s rules slightly different from one another. Due to this, there are several things that make Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation program unique. Here, we will address what Wisconsin worker’s compensation is, how much it pays, who pays for it, and other frequently asked questions about it.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Wisconsin workers’ compensation insurance is a type of business insurance that provides benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.

These insurance benefits provide coverage for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of income (the amount depends on numerous factors)
  • Job-related rehab or re-training
  • Funeral costs and death benefits

How Much Does It Pay?

How much and how long a workers’ compensation policy pays out depends on numerous factors including:

  • The average weekly salary of the employee
  • The type of injury the employee suffered
  • The severity of the injury suffered by the employee
  • How well the employee recovered at the end of the healing period

In total, there are four disability categories that influence the amount of workers’ compensation an employee receives and the duration they receive it for.

These four categories are:

  • Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
  • Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
  • Permanent Total Disability (PTD)

Wisconsin worker in crutches with a knee brace working with a doctor to put pressure on his leg.
For a comprehensive list of all the payout options associated with each category, visit Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Guide.

Who Pays for Workers’ Compensation?

The costs associated with acquiring workers’ compensation insurance for a business are covered by the employer in the form of premiums. The employer’s insurance company (aka insurance carrier) then handles the costs of workers’ compensation claims made by the employer’s business.

Who Is Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?

Nearly all Wisconsin employees are eligible for Wisconsin workers’ compensation insurance including part-time employees, corporate officers, minors, and more.

The only exceptions to those covered by Wisconsin workers’ comp policies are:

  • Domestic servants
  • Farm employees (with exceptions)
  • Non-profit volunteers
  • Federal employees
  • Certified members of several religious sects
  • People who work on interstate railroads
  • Seamen on United States waterways
  • People who load and unload water vessels

Wisconsin interstate railroad worker welding train tracks together wearing an orange vest and black shin padding.

When Does Coverage Start for New Employees?

Unlike other employee benefits where you have a probationary/waiting period, workers’ compensation begins on the first day of your employment!

How Do I File a Workers’ Comp Claim?

To file a workers’ comp claim as an employee, your only responsibilities are to notify your employer of your work-related injury or illness, seek appropriate medical attention, and retain all related medical bills. It is essential that you notify your employer of your work-related injury or illness as soon as possible as there are time limits to reporting it.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to notify your insurance company of this work-related injury or illness (unless you are self-insured). The insurance company is then responsible for covering the costs of the benefits associated with your workers’ compensation policy. On average, it takes 14 days for an employee to receive a workers’ comp policy payment.

It is important to note that loss of income coverage begins after three days unless the employee is unable to work for more than seven days, at which point the initial three days will be covered for loss of income.

Injured Wisconsin factory worker sitting down with a shoulder injury receiving care from the factory employer who is wearing a white hard hat.

How Do I File a Claim if My Employer Doesn’t Have Insurance?

If your employer is illegally not carrying Wisconsin workers’ compensation insurance, as an employee, you can file a claim through the Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF). The UEF is operated by the Wisconsin government and receives its funds from the penalties it places on illegally uninsured Wisconsin employers.

The UEF will review your claim and, if eligible, will provide you the same compensation as if you had been covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation policy. Generally, the first payment of compensation is provided within 14 days of the UEF receiving your claim.

When Are Employers Required to Carry Workers’ Comp Insurance?

Under Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation laws, nearly all employers in Wisconsin are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, including out-of-state employers with employees working in Wisconsin.

The only exemptions are for:

  • Employers with less than three employees who make less than $500 in combined gross wages every quarter.
  • Farmers who have not employed six or more workers on the same day for 20 or more days during the calendar year.

Where Do I Get Workers’ Compensation?

Unlike some states, Wisconsin does not provide workers’ compensation insurance directly. Instead, businesses must go through insurance agents and companies to get workers’ compensation insurance.

Does It Matter Which Insurance Company I Choose?

Yes! Though rates for your workers’ compensation policy will be the same for any insurance company you go to, there are certain perks that each insurance company can provide to lower the costs of your policy. These perks often come in the form of dividends, in what are known as workers’ compensation dividend plans or workers’ compensation participating plans.

Wisconsin woman employer putting several hundred dollar bills in her back pocket after receiving dividends from her workers' compensation policy.
Dividends are a way for insurance companies to reward businesses for having fewer claims during a given calendar year by sharing their profits as a percentage of a business’s premium. The initial percentage offered in the policy varies between insurance companies, and with roughly 300 companies licensed to sell workers’ comp in Wisconsin, it is best to work with an independent insurance agent to find you the best dividend offers. Contact us at one of our Wisconsin locations to work with an MSIG workers’ comp agent to find you the right policy.

Who Determines Wisconsin’s Workers’ Compensation Rates?

Wisconsin workers’ compensation insurance rates are set by Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation bureau, aka the Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau (WCRB). They are responsible for many things including classifying the risks associated with certain jobs, calculating experience modification ratings, and more.

What Does It Mean to Be Self-Insured?

To be “self-insured” means the employer can cover the costs of paying its workers’ compensation claims on its own without insurance. In order to be self-insured, Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development must grant a company permission.


As you can tell, many areas of Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation insurance can be difficult to understand and can leave you asking more questions. To help you navigate the world of workers’ comp, reach out to an MSIG workers’ comp specialist by requesting a free quote today.