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Who is a worker?



* IE is insurable earnings

The WSIB sets an annual maximum for insurable earnings. For 2013, the annual maximum was $83,200. For 2014, the annual maximum is $84,100.

The WSIB requires employers to report the earnings of all their workers*.

Defining a worker

A worker is anyone you employ in your business under a contract of service or apprenticeship. In this relationship you, for example, set:

  • The nature and place of work
  • When it is performed, and
  • How it is performed.

In some cases an unpaid employee may still be considered a worker (e.g. training participant).

A family member, including spouse, children and other relatives, employed under a contract of service and receiving earnings is considered a worker. Their earnings must be included in the premium calculation.

Workers can be employed either full-time or part-time, including:

  • Seasonal, temporary or occasional employees
  • Students, apprentices and learners
  • Training participants
  • Domestics workers working for you for more than 24 hours a week
  • Workers in the construction industry

*An occasional (or casual) worker is an individual who works occasionally i.e. less than part-time, and would be on an irregular schedule. If such a worker is employed for the purposes of the employer’s industry, insurable earnings must be reported and premiums must be paid for the work performed. However, if such a worker is employed otherwise than for the purposes of the employer’s industry, there is no need to report insurable earnings or remit premiums for the work performed.

Contractors/subcontractors may also be workers. More information on non-construction contractors/ subcontractors and construction contractors/ subcontractors

Workers are eligible for WSIB benefits. For more information see Deemed Workers

Executive officers

The WSIB considers executive officers to be a select group of individuals who control the direction of the entire organization rather than just a department or branch. Title alone does not make an individual an executive officer. The key to executive officer status is that the person is empowered or appointed to act as an officer of the organization. If the individual is not empowered by the organization as an officer, the WSIB will not determine them to be an executive officer. The WSIB has the authority to determine who is an executive officer. For a complete list of positions eligible for executive officer, see the chart below.

If you are incorporated and you consider one (or more) of the individuals on your payroll to be an executive officer, you should be able to demonstrate  the individual in question:

  • Holds a position (as corporate officer or director) listed on the chart under “Limited liability companies” and is named in your corporation’s minute book as holding this position; and
  • Is enumerated, appointed or empowered through corporate documents such as Articles of Incorporation, Charters, bylaws, and/or corporate profile reports filed with a federal or provincial agency to act as an officer; 
  • Does in fact perform the duties and executes the responsibilities of an executive officer, as defined by the WSIB; and
  • Has significant functional responsibilities demonstrating the individual is a ‘directing mind’ and/or is wholly or partially responsible for the organization as a whole
Employer Type Description Executive Officers
Limited liability companies Legally incorporated with
share capital
  • members of the board of directors
  • chair and vice-chair of the board of directors
  • corporate president, chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), vice president, corporate secretary, treasurer and general manager of the corporation
Non-profit Non-incorporated, or
legally incorporated
without share capital
  • directors of the governing board or their equivalent
Municipalities Incorporated and non-incorporated, including cities, towns, villages,
and Indian bands
  • all elected officials (e.g. mayors, city councillors) and temporary appointees to elected positions
Boards or
Public health service
facilities (e.g. hospitals), utilities, municipal agencies, school boards, colleges
and universities
  • members of the governing board, either appointed or elected or
    their equivalent
Provincial government  
  • deputy ministers

An independent operator who incorporates, is not considered an executive officer.

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Optional insurance

Excluding the construction industry, independent operators, sole proprietors, partners and executive officers are not automatically covered under the WSIA unless they apply for optional insurance. 

An owner’s spouse, or other family member must hold a position as a partner or executive officer and must receive earnings that are verifiable if audited to qualify for optional insurance. 

Under the WSIA, compulsory coverage extends to most independent operators, sole proprietors, partners and executive officers in the construction industry, with certain exceptions. A partner/executive officer who has been granted an exemption by the WSIB or an individual who meets the home renovation exemption criteria under Operational Policy Manual document: 12- 01-06, Expanded Compulsory Coverage in Construction, may make application for optional insurance. 

Optional insurance takes effect the date the signed written request is received by the WSIB. 

The optional insurance amount should reflect the earnings of the person covered. Optional insurance is always set at an annual earnings level, subject to the annual maximum insurable earnings ceiling, regardless of the period the insurance is actually in effect.

The minimum coverage period for optional insurance is three months.

To update the amount of optional insurance, use the Optional Insurance Request/Change form ( 84.8kb, PDF) included in your reconciliation package.

Cancelling optional insurance

Optional insurance is continuous and stays in effect until the person covered provides a signed, written request asking for cancellation of optional coverage.

If the person covered is no longer with the firm and is not available to sign the cancellation form, the employer must provide us the date the person in question left the company. In such cases the WSIB will accept an authorized signature instead of the insured person’s signature.

The WSIB may cancel optional insurance with 15 days notice if the employer defaults on premium payments. If there are multiple accounts, optional insurance is cancelled for all accounts, no matter which account is in default.

An individual in construction who no longer is eligible for the partner/executive officer exemption from compulsory coverage, or no longer meets the home renovation exemption criteria in construction, must cancel their optional insurance as they must report their actual insurable earnings.

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Non-construction contractors/subcontractors

A contractor/subcontractor or owner operator may be a worker, independent operator or employer for WSIB purposes. Workers are automatically covered and you are required to pay premiums for this coverage. Coverage for contractors/subcontractors ruled by the WSIB to be independent operators is not mandatory.

A contractor/subcontractor who employs workers/helpers is an employer and must be registered with the WSIB. If you retain a contractor/subcontractor to perform a service and there is evidence that the contractor/subcontractor retains help, you should verify that the contractor/subcontractor working for you is registered with the WSIB and remains in good standing. (Refer to Clearances.)

For the period being reconciled, you may have retained contractors who you considered as independent operators or employers in their own right. As a result, you may not have reported payments made to them as insurable earnings on your Premium Remittance forms. If you did not obtain rulings from the WSIB confirming independent operator status for these individuals, or did not obtain a clearance  for those contractors/subcontractors who employ help or have optional insurance, the WSIB strongly encourages you to do so.

If the WSIB finds that these contractors/subcontractors were in fact your workers, unregistered employers, or registered employers not in good standing, you could be liable for insurance premiums that are owed in connection with the work or service they performed on your behalf.

The following sections explain how the WSIB determines if a contractor/subcontractor is your worker or an independent operator, and how obtaining clearances can protect you from liability for a contractor’s/subcontractor’s premiums.

In all cases where you have not, or are not, reporting payments made to contractors/subcontractors, contact a WSIB account representative to confirm the status of the contractors/subcontractors.

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Is the individual your worker or an independent operator?

The WSIB uses questionnaires to help determine if a contractor/subcontractor is an independent operator or your worker.

More information on completing questionnaires.

There are industry-specific and general questionnaires available from a WSIB account representative and on our website.

If you consider the contractor/subcontractor you retain to be an independent operator, you and your contractor/subcontractor should submit a completed and signed questionnaire along with supporting documentation to a WSIB account representative.

If the WSIB determines the contractor/subcontractor is your worker you:

  • Will be notified of the decision in writing
  • Must include the labour portion of the contractor’s/subcontractor’s gross earnings when calculating the premium subject to annual maximum insurable earnings.

If the WSIB determines the contractor/subcontractor is an independent
operator you:

  • Will be notified of the decision in writing
  • Will not be required to pay premiums for that contractor/subcontractor
  • Must keep the decision letter on file for your records.

Please note that incorporation is only one factor in determining whether a person is an independent operator. If your contractor/subcontractor is an incorporated individual or partnership, you and your contractor/subcontractor should complete, sign and submit the appropriate questionnaire, and supporting documentation, if required.

To protect yourself against liability for unpaid premiums, you should:

  • Keep the independent operator decision letter issued to your company from the WSIB, as proof of the status ruling.

An individual ruled to be an independent operator, and who does not have WSIB optional insurance coverage, is not protected by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (Act).

The WSIB has the authority to determine who is a worker or an independent operator under the WSIA and reserves the right to review this ruling at any time.

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Request a Clearance if you retain a contractor/subcontractor.

More information on Clearances, including obtaining a Clearance using eClearance

To avoid liability for unpaid premiums the WSIB recommends that you request a Clearance if your contractor/subcontractor retains help. The WSIB issues a Clearance  when the contractor’s/subcontractor’s account is in good standing.

The Clearance waives the WSIB’s right to hold you liable for any premiums owed by the contractor/subcontractor for the labour portion of the contract that are due within the validity period of the Clearance.

A Clearance is not an instrument for determining worker or independent operator status.

A Clearance is not proof an owner, partner, or executive officer has WSIB optional insurance coverage. For more information see Optional Insurance.

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Construction contractors/ subcontractors 

Effective January 1, 2013, certain contractors/subcontractors who are independent operators in the construction industry are required to register with the WSIB – unless the contractor/subcontractor is excluded from coverage by the home renovation exemption or they are a worker of the principal. Contractors/subcontractors must have a valid clearance in place before any construction work begins and for the full length of all jobs. Independent Operator letters no longer apply for construction.