Do You Have The Right Work Comp Policy?

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC

Almost every day we are asked, “How can I lower my Work Comp cost?” While the answer for each tree care company is specific to their situation, examining the type of the Work Comp policy is one way to lower the cost. Below are the most common types of policies that are available for tree services.

Now because Work Comp is regulated at the state level, each state operates a little differently, so unfortunately, some of these policy types may not be available in your state.

Guaranteed Cost – The vast majority of tree services have this type of WC policy. A Guaranteed Cost policy gives the insured company confidence in the total cost of the policy. The rate is set at the beginning of the policy period, payments are made, then the premium is adjusted at the end of the policy term according to the actual payroll the tree service incurred during the policy. Injuries only affect future policy premiums, not the current policy year.

Dividend – A Dividend policy acts exactly like a Guaranteed Cost policy throughout the year except the policy holder has a chance to earn some of the premium back after the policy year is over. This premium that is given back to the policyholder is called a dividend. Dividends can be either a set percentage of the final premium (called a Flat Dividend) or a sliding scale percentage based on the claims that happened throughout the year (called a Variable Dividend). The dividend amount is negotiated with the insurance company before the start of the policy.


Depending on the size of your company and the strength of your safety program and financials, you may want to consider the following Work Comp options. These plans are much more sophisticated and require a strong understanding of the risk/reward involved with them.

Deductible – Deductible Work Comp policies also utilize the Guaranteed Cost policy format except they contain a provision for a deductible. The Work Comp deductible works just like any other insurance deductible, where the insured tree service pays the first amount of a claim and the insurance company pays the rest. This can be a small dollar figure like $1,000 or a large amount like $100,000. An aggregate (per year) deductible can be negotiated at the beginning of the policy to cap the out of pocket expenses.

Retrospectively Rated – With a Retrospectively Rated Work Comp policy, the insured tree service pays a fixed cost throughout the policy period and then the premium is adjusted at the end based on the claims that occurred. This plan setup offers the greatest potential savings but also could be the most expensive depending on how the injuries unfold for the year. There is a minimum and maximum premium assigned at the start. A common minimum premium would be 50% of the Guaranteed Cost while the maximum could be 150%.


All types of Work Comp policies are designed to finance the injuries that occur within your organization. Selecting the type that fits your company best can be complex, however, the rewards of better cash flow and lower cost can be well worth it. For more assistance with your Work Comp policy, please contact an ArboRisk team member today!