As an independent, or self-employed, contractor it can often be confusing to understand who is responsible for obtaining WorkSafeBC coverage. Are you responsible? Or is your client? Whether you are a graphic designer working one-day-a-week in your client’s office or an electrician working on a build site, you will come across dangers in your day-to-day work, so it’s important to know who is responsible should something happen.
Requirements for Self-Employed Contractors
We posed the following scenarios to WorkSafeBC to help understand the requirements of a self-employed contractor. Here’s what they said:
Scenario 1: I am a self-employed contractor. I have the opportunity to sign a contract with a client and one of the stipulations is that I have to have my own WorkSafeBC account. What are my options?
Based on the information you have provided you will not be considered a “worker”. You will therefore need to register as an independent business or operator. Personal Optional Protection (POP) coverage is voluntary, optional insurance that will cover lost salary and medical expenses in cases of work-related injury or disease. You can also apply for POP coverage on behalf of your spouse should it be relevant to you. For more information, go to www.worksafebc.com and search “registration questions” to read the Frequently Asked Questions, or contact the Employer Services Centre, at 604-244-6181, for clarification.
Scenario 2: I am a self-employed contractor who has been asked to register and pay for WorkSafeBC myself. Why am I being made to pay for it when I really don’t want the personal coverage?
As you are not hired as a ‘worker’ of the company, you will not be covered under their WorkSafeBC account. Personal coverage insurance for self-employed contractors (not incorporated) is voluntary, but some larger businesses will require all of their sub-contractors to have their own WorkSafeBC insurance as well as other business liability insurance.
Scenario 3: I am a self-employed contractor who has never been asked by a client if I have my own WorkSafeBC coverage. Can I just assume that I am covered by my client? Or must I question my client about the coverage?
Yes, you should definitely discuss this with your clients. Only “workers” as defined by the Workers’ Compensation Act are automatically covered if injured at work. If you are running your own business as a sole-proprietor (for example, where you are in control of your own work, profit/losses and work for multiple employers) you can apply for voluntary coverage, but you would not be automatically covered in if you were to be injured at work. For more information, go to www.worksafebc.com and search “self-employed”.
Understanding Who Should and Should Not Register
In general, we advise you adhere to the following guidelines:
- Worker: if you are considered a “worker” as defined by the Workers’ Compensation Act, you do not need to and will not be permitted to register for WorkSafeBC coverage.
- Employer: if you are an employer that hires other “workers” to work for you, you may be required to register for WorkSafeBC coverage for your workers.
- Contractor: if you are a contractor, your requirement to register will depend on many criteria. The answers to your specific situation can be complicated depending on your circumstances. For detailed information, see the “Assessment Manual: Practice Directive 1-1-3 (A), Status – Distinguishing between a worker and an independent operator”
The answers provided in this article are intended to provide general guidance; they are not intended to provide answers to address specific situations, as each situation will vary depending on the circumstances of the employment relationship and the work being done.
Please consult the WorkSafeBC website or contact Employer Services Centre for specific answers to your situation.
Employer Services Centre contact details:
Lower Mainland: 604-244-6181
Toll Free: 1 888 922-2768 (toll-free)
The Employers Advisers Office, who has offices throughout BC, work independently from WorkSafeBC and offer their services are available to no additional cost.