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insurance policy for company employees

Insuring Your Business: Small Business Owners' Guide to Insurance

Life insurance for key employees, who is a key employee.

A key employee is someone whose knowledge and skills contribute significantly to your business income. Losing a key employee would most likely cause substantial negative financial consequences for your business. According to a survey of small businesses by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 71 percent of the firms surveyed said they were very dependent on one or two key people for their success. However, only 22 percent of respondents had key person life insurance in place.

What Is Key Employee Insurance?

Life or disability income insurance can compensate your business when certain key employees die or become disabled. These coverages cushion some of the adverse financial impact that results from losing a key employee’s participation.

How Much Life Insurance Is Advisable?

There is no set formula for putting a dollar value on the financial impact of a key employee’s death. Nevertheless, you need to come up with a figure as a guide to how much insurance coverage to buy. Some life insurance companies provide formulas for this which may or may not have a realistic relationship to the employee’s worth to your business.

In some cases, a look at the employee’s responsibilities can facilitate valuation. If, for example, the employee is responsible for a certain volume of sales, the loss is the profit derived from the person’s sales, less the profit that could be expected from a replacement.

Also to be included is the expected cost of replacing the employee, including employment agency fees and moving expenses and possibly a higher salary for the replacement.

Who Owns the Life Insurance Policy?

Usually, your organization owns the policy, pays the premium and is the beneficiary. Alternatively, your business and a key employee may agree to split the premium payments, cash surrender and death benefit value.

The employee must agree to the company’s purchase of this insurance. The insurer may also require a resolution from your board of directors stating the policy’s purpose.

What Kind of Life Insurance Should I Buy?

Businesses usually use term insurance when the only purpose is to compensate for losses caused by the key employee’s death. Policies that accumulate cash value are appropriate in some circumstances. Discuss which is better for your business with your life insurance agent.

What Is Key Employee Disability Income Insurance?

Key employee disability income insurance is less well known than key employee life insurance. Nevertheless, the risk of a key employee experiencing partial, total or permanent disability is actually much greater than the risk the person will die. Should a key employee suffer permanent total disability, the loss to your business will be just the same as if the person had died. Key employee disability income insurance protects the business from this loss exposure by paying you anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of the disabled employee’s earned income.

If the disabled person is a partner or sole proprietor, a business overhead expense disability policy provides some protection. This pays, up to the policy limit, office expenses including rent, utilities, salaries and depreciation that continue when a partner or sole proprietor is disabled.

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Offering life insurance as an employee benefit

Employers may choose to offer life insurance benefits to their employees. If this optional benefit is one you are thinking of offering, you will have to determine who should be covered, what type of life insurance benefits to offer and how much life insurance is optimal and affordable.

A popular employee benefit for both employers and employees is life insurance. Offering it is completely optional but worth considering if you and your employees can benefit from the possible lower rates of insuring a group. If you're considering including life insurance in your employee benefit package you will have several coverage issues to consider, including whom to cover and the type and amount of coverage to offer. The next step will require finding vendors and making sure the plan is properly administered.

Who should be covered?

Once you've decided you may want to offer life insurance, you need to decide which employees will get these benefits. You may want to offer group-term life insurance benefits to all your full-time employees, especially if you can get lower rates (and avoid individual medical exams) with a bigger group.

If you only want to offer life insurance as a special benefit to a few key employees, you won't be able to deduct the premiums for federal tax purposes, unless you can meet special nondiscrimination requirements.

What are the nondiscrimination requirements you must meet? Generally, nondiscrimination requirements are designed to discourage you from providing benefits only to the most highly compensated employees or providing benefits that limit lower compensated employees from participating because of the price of the benefits. In the case of group-term life insurance, a plan does not discriminate as to an employee's eligibility to participate if any of the following conditions are met:

In the case of group-term life insurance, the most commonly offered type of employer-provided life insurance, you can offer life insurance to small sub-groups of employees if the distinctions are based on:

You aren't permitted to offer benefits to male employees only, for example, because you think they are the main providers for their families and not offer the benefits to your female employees.

Similarly, you cannot offer life insurance benefits only to employees who are married with kids but not extend the benefit to singles or employees who are married but don't have children.

Tax implications. Generally, group-term policies are nondiscriminatory because the amount of insurance is consistently based on some multiple of each employee's compensation. If all the requirements are met, the cost of the premiums for the first $50,000 of group-term life insurance isn't included in the employee's gross income (for tax purposes). If the requirements aren't met, you can still provide the insurance, but the value of the insurance will be taxable compensation to the employee.

Rules for retirees. You can decide to offer life insurance to retirees of your business.

Think ahead

This means that if you retire and the business continues, the business may be able to provide this benefit to you .

Types and amounts of life insurance benefits you can offer

Once you've decided who gets the benefits, you'll need to decide what type of life insurance benefits you want to offer and the amounts of coverage.

Types of life insurance benefits you can offer

Most employers offer group-term life insurance as an employee benefit, although other types can be offered. Term insurance is life insurance that is in effect for a certain period of time only. Generally, in the case of employer-provided term life insurance, the term is for as long as the employee is employed. Group-term life insurance can be offered to employees only, not to their spouses and children.

To take advantage of the tax deduction for group-term life insurance (i.e., the value of up to $50,000 in insurance is tax-exempt for the employee), you must have at least 10 full-time employees. The 10-employee restriction does not apply if you provide coverage to all full-time employees, the method for computing the amounts of insurance is set (such as a uniform percentage of the employee's yearly salary), and no physical exams are required to obtain coverage.

There are other types of insurance that you can offer besides group-term life, including:

Life insurance plan riders. A rider is an additional feature or benefit that you can add on to an existing insurance policy. Plans can come with an infinite number of riders that you can add to your plan and that will allow you to customize your plan to a degree. For example, you could add an accidental death and dismemberment rider to a group-term life insurance policy that would pay double the death benefit if the employee was killed due to an accident. Your insurance agent can explain the various riders you can get in conjunction with a life insurance policy.

How much life insurance is the right amount?

Most group-term policies offer either a set amount of insurance (for example, a $10,000 policy for each employee) or are based on the employee's salary (for example, policy values of one, two, or three times the employee's yearly salary). In some cases, you can allow employees to purchase life insurance in increments, the cost of which is based on their age.

Your business offers life insurance that can be purchased in $500 increments. The insurance vendor gives you the following rate schedule per $500 of coverage purchased.

Employees under 25 pay $.25 per $500 per month; employees 25 - 45 pay $.29 per $500 per month; and employees 45 - 55 pay $.35 per $500 per month.

Jim, age 24, wants to purchase $7,500 of life insurance. He will have to pay 15 times $.25 = $3.75 per month for his insurance. Sebastian, age 32, will have to pay 15 times $.29 = $4.35 per month for the same amount of coverage.

The $50,000 threshold for non-taxable compensation. Remember, the cost of employer-provided group-term life insurance in excess of $50,000 is taxable to employees. That means that if you pay the premiums for employees' life insurance, any premiums you pay for more than $50,000 in coverage for one employee count as taxable income for that employee. Not only will the employee pay income taxes on it, you'll both have to pay payroll taxes on it as well .

Arts and Crafts, Inc., pays the premiums on a $175,000 group-term life insurance policy on Rita, who is 48 years old. The monthly rate for employees in the 45-49 age group under the plan is $.32 per thousand. If Rita makes no contribution toward the plan, the cost of the $125,000 coverage ($175,000 minus the $50,000 exclusion) counts as taxable income for Rita. The amount included in taxable income would be $480 for the year (125 [thousand-dollar increments] times $.32 [per thousand] times 12 [months]).

If Rita contributes $11 per month toward the coverage, then the taxable amount included as gross income for the year is $348 ($480 minus $132 [Rita's contribution]).

Finding life insurance providers and administering benefits

Once you've done some thinking about whom you want to offer life insurance to and the types of insurance and amounts of coverage you want to offer, you're ready to contact vendors for price quotes.

Finding life insurance providers

As with other types of insurance for small businesses, the best way to find out who's offering benefits to employers of your size is to do a little survey.

Ask friends, neighbors, and other business people that you work with. You can even ask your customers. It always pays to check out the local chamber of commerce, as well, who may be able to put you in touch with small business purchasing alliances, trade groups, or other associations that you can join with in purchasing life insurance and that can help you get a better group rate.

Questions to ask. Ask the following questions in doing your research:

This basic information should help you get a few leads on who to contact for some quotes for life insurance for your employees.

Administering life insurance

On the whole, life group-term benefits are easy to administer because they do not require constant monitoring and hopefully don't generate many claims.

The insurance company should provide you with the necessary forms to enroll employees. Keep a copy of the employee's enrollment document for the employee's benefit file.

Designating a beneficiary. The beneficiary is the person who will get the money if the employee dies and the policy covers it. Sometimes the plan will allow people to designate several people as beneficiaries and to split the benefit into percentages. The insurance company should provide you with forms for this purpose.

Impress upon your employees how important it is to keep beneficiary information current by making changes to their beneficiary designation when appropriate. Examples of situations that might warrant a change in beneficiary include marriage, legally separation, or divorce, if employees have a child, or when a spouse, parent, or other close relative dies.

Proof of insurability. Generally, with group-term life insurance, employees will not be asked to complete a medical questionnaire.

However, if you should offer the employee the option of purchasing additional life insurance to complement what you provide, employees who want to purchase that additional insurance may be required to complete a medical questionnaire. That questionnaire will either be mailed directly to the insurance company by the employee or the employee may return it to you to submit to the insurance company.

Some employers keep a copy of everything to create a paper trail in case of a problem later. Don't make a copy of the employee's medical questionnaire. In fact, don't even look at it. You can suggest that the employee mail it directly to the company, or you can give the employee an addressed, stamped envelope to put the form in.

You don't want to keep a copy because you don't want the employee to be able to claim that you discriminated against him or her on the basis of a disability or medical condition that was disclosed on the form. This is particularly important for employers with 15 or more employees who are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) , a federal law.

Processing life insurance claims. If one of your employees should die, it will no doubt be a stressful time for you as you try to maintain the flow of work in your business while grieving for the loss of your employee and coworker. Part of your duty as the employer will include filing for life insurance benefits.

In most instances, the situation will unfold this way: The employee's next of kin will call you to let you know that an employee has died or been killed. If that call comes, notify your insurance company. There will be forms that you need to complete to start the claims process rolling. You'll need a certified death certificate, which is usually available from the funeral home/crematorium or directly from the deceased employee's executor or next-of-kin. Make a copy of the completed claim form and any supporting documents for your files and be sure to submit the claim via registered or certified mail.

Terminating life insurance benefits benefits. When an employee leaves, if you have group-term life insurance, some policies may allow a conversion privilege. What that means is that if your employees leave or otherwise have to terminate the life insurance offered by you, they may be able to get a private policy through the insurance agency. Generally these policies are much more expensive than the group-term policy that you'll most likely offer, and sometimes they have low coverage limits and require proof of insurability.

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Guide to Providing Health Care Benefits to Employees

Find Cheap Health Insurance Quotes in Your Area

If your business has over 50 employees, you are legally required to provide health insurance to employees due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If you have fewer than 50 employees, you'll need to make the decision whether to offer your employees health care benefits. We examined every major decision point to help you make the right decision for your business.

Are You Legally Required to Provide Health Insurance for Employees?

How does health insurance for employees work, where to find health insurance plans.

If you have more than 50 full-time and part-time employees, you are legally required to provide group health insurance to your employees. If you fall into that bucket, you'll need to make sure you offer coverage to at least 95% of your full-time employees and their dependents. Full-time employees are those who work more than 30 hours per week.

If you have less than 50 employees, you aren't obligated to provide such benefits, but we'd highly encourage you to at least consider it. A strong benefits package can go a long way in terms of attracting and retaining talent, and the government also provides various incentives to help make this easier. If interested, we recommend SHOP, which we go into more detail on below.

Health insurance plans for employees are commonly referred to as group insurance plans. Group health insurance is a single plan that provides coverage for (usually) all employees. Plans are typically paid for on a monthly basis, and those monthly premiums are dependent upon your location, the number of employees covered and the ages of your covered employees.

In addition, there are different types of insurance plans. The four most common types of plans are:

Each plan will have a monthly premium, a deductible that has to be met before the plan kicks in, and copays that the covered individual might have to pay for particular services.

We strongly caution against instantly choosing the cheapest plan available without looking into the details. Those plans are often cheap for a reason. We took the time to go through the process of finding a group insurance plan, and we found that many of the cheapest plans also came with significant drawbacks, including -n-network providers that were far away, providers that were open only during normal working hours and more. As cumbersome as it may be, it'll be in your best interest to carefully review the details of each plan and network.

How Much Does Health Insurance Usually Cost?

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that on average, employers pay $5,700 per employee for single coverage plans and $14,000 per employee for family coverage plans per year . Insurance premiums have been outpacing inflation year over year, so you'll also have to keep that in mind if you're planning on offering health insurance benefits for the long run. Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that health insurance benefits account for roughly 8% of employees' total compensation across the U.S.

Employers aren't required to pay 100% of the premiums for employees. In fact, only 27% of small firm workers are in a plan where their employer pays for the full monthly premium . According to the IRS, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must "offer affordable health coverage that provides a minimum level of coverage to their full-time employees and their dependents." Minimal level of coverage is generally defined as 60% of health care costs for the standard population. You can also use the Employer Coverage Tool to determine if your plan meets requirements.

You are able to claim however much you pay for your employees' monthly premiums as business expenses. This means that the monthly premiums you pay are 100% tax-deductible at both the state and federal level.

In addition, small businesses may qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit , which can allow for up to 50% of your health care expenses to be claimed as credit. In order to qualify, your business must meet the following conditions:

Tax deductions reduce your taxable income and can lower your tax bracket. The amount of money you save is dependent on your tax bracket. Tax credits, on the other hand, directly reduce the amount of taxes you owe on a 1:1 basis. If you owe $10,000 in taxes and receive a $1,000 tax credit, you'd then owe only $9,000 in taxes.

Ways to save on Employee Health Insurance

Paying for group insurance can be daunting, but there are a few ways you can creatively reduce those costs.

Share costs with employees: Providing health insurance benefits for your employees isn't an all-or-nothing effort. Most employers share premium costs with employees. Common ways to save here are to have employees pay higher premiums or to shift employee costs at the copay level and negotiate lower premiums with your insurance provider.

Create your own health insurance group: If you feel that your employees are quite risk-averse and healthy, you may want to consider creating your own health insurance group. Rather than signing up for health insurance, you set aside partof your own budget for emergency health care services. This means the risk of paying high health care costs falls on you as the employer. This may save money in the short term, but it only takes one expensive health care bill to completely use up the entire budget.

First, we highly recommend assessing what benefits your employees are looking for. If a high percentage of your employees, for example, are looking for strong dental benefits, you'll want a plan that emphasizes that. If your employees want cheap, minimal insurance that they'd only use for emergencies, that's helpful to know as well.

Benenson Strategy Group reported that out of the 1,000 employees surveyed, most said that they'd opt for better health insurance rather than a 10% pay raise. In other words, it's a big deal to employees.

After assessing their wants and needs, you can now enter the insurance market with a comprehensive list of the services you'd like covered and your budget, two of the most helpful initial filters.

Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)

SHOP is a federal marketplace for small-business owners seeking health care plans. Each state maintains its own SHOP marketplace, but they're all similar. In order to qualify to use SHOP, businesses must generally meet the following requirements:

Employers have the opportunity to select from three tiers of health insurance based on price and coverage. Once a tier is selected, employees can then go into SHOP on their own and can select their own individual plan based on the tier the employer selected.

Private Health Insurance Marketplace

You can also find health insurance through private health marketplaces. The quality and availability of plans will vary based on your location, but we'd recommend exploring these as well in order to choose the best option for your employees. Here are the top four biggest private exchanges:

Similarly to SHOP, employers select a predefined contribution, which designates what plans employees have access to choose from. Employees then select the individual plan they'd like and the employer receives a single comprehensive bill for every employee. The marketplace would typically provide administrative support services like call centers and online support.

Use a Health Insurance Broker

If you don't have time to manually compare plans side by side, you should consider hiring a broker. You can find a trusted broker through friends and peers or through SHOP. A good broker should be able to clearly break down more challenging aspects of picking a health insurance plan, such as the value of different networks or the quality of various providers.

Professional Employer Organization (PEO)

PEOs are separate from traditional insurance carriers and often leverage their large economies of scale to provide cheaper HR services to small businesses and startups. Often times, PEOs like Justworks provide health insurance benefits at the same or cheaper rates that traditional health insurance providers charge.

Self-Employed Options

If you're self-employed , consider the Health Insurance Marketplace that's available to those who don't have any employees. You'll likely receive tax credits based on your income and household size to help lessen the costs.

The benefit of the Health Insurance Marketplace is that with a single application, you'll be able to see what tax credits and plans you qualify for. Like most other marketplaces, the Health Insurance Marketplace also groups their plans based on tiers.

Common Terminology You Should Know When Shopping for Health Insurance

We've consolidated the most common terms and phrases used by health care providers.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Four types of insurance to cover your employees.

insurance policy for company employees

July 19, 2017 — 09:57 am EDT

Written by ValuePenguin  ->

This content is made possible by our sponsor; the views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Congratulations! Your business just joined the one in five small enterprises that have grown big enough to need employees to help get the work done. Now, alas, come some new types of insurance required by employers.

Some of these four types of insurance are required in certain states. Even if they aren’t mandatory for your enterprise, you may want to strongly consider them, as one or both of an incentive to your employees and a legal protection for the business itself.

Not included in the four is health insurance , the requirements for which remain in flux as the healthcare debate continues in Congress. The Employer Shared Responsibility Payment , requiring the employer to sponsor employee health insurance, applies to companies with more than 50 full-time employees. However, as of late June 2017, the latest Senate proposal calls for eliminating this requirement, as did the House bill that preceded it.

Worker’s Compensation

This insurance covers work-related injury or illness. The definition of work-related injuries include those that occur off work premises, such as those arising from an auto accident that occurred while an employee was driving between job sites.

“Worker’s Comp” requirements differ from state to state. Many states, including Delaware, require Worker’s Compensation if you have even a single employee. Other, such as Florida, have different rules for different industries; for example, a construction company with even one employee is required to have coverage, while non-construction companies only must carry coverage after they grow to have four employees

Unemployment Insurance

Almost all businesses must pay for unemployment insurance, which is a joint federal/state program. Specifically, it’s required if you have at least one employee who worked at least one day per week for 20 weeks or paid $1,500 in wages in any quarter of the calendar year.

States such as Illinois require new businesses to register with their Department of Employment Security. The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) requires you to pay a 6% tax to the federal government on the first $7,000 your employee earns. Your business earns a reduced rate (down to .6%) if you pay your state unemployment taxes on time.

Disability Insurance

A complement to worker’s compensation insurance, this coverage is against injuries and illnesses that occur off the job. If you own a business in California, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, or Rhode Island, you must purchase disability coverage, which provides an injured employee with partial wage replacement for a specified amount of time, either short-term or long-term.

Unlike unemployment insurance, your business does not necessarily shoulder the entire cost of disability insurance. In New York, for instance, an employer can collect a limited amount in premiums. If your employee has more than one job, the required premiums can be divvied up between their two employers.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance

This type of insurance covers job-related lawsuits that include (but are not limited to) wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and violations of leave laws such as The Family and Medical Leave Act. This coverage is separate from Worker’s Compensation coverage, and what’s known as Errors and Omissions insurance, in that this policy covers only violations of employee’s legal rights.

If you own a small business , your choice of carriers for this insurance might be limited. According to the American Bar Association, many insurance companies fear that a small employer will not consult appropriate legal counsel before making a difficult employment decision. Your carrier might also insist on picking the counsel for an Employment Practices case.

This content originally appeared on ValuePenguin .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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While many people think of health insurance as the main benefit they get through their employer, chances are you have many additional options available to you – including life insurance.

When you’re starting a new job or going through your employer’s annual enrollment for benefits, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so much information thrown your way.

You may never have stopped to consider whether the choices offered by your employer are the best fit for you and your family.

Life insurance is an important part of how you protect your family’s finances if the unthinkable happens, but can be an overlooked option when enrolling for benefits at work.

Advantages of buying life insurance at work

Life insurance offered through your employer is typically “group insurance,” meaning one policy covers a defined group of people (in this case, you and other people who work for the same organization).

Many employers automatically provide a basic level of life insurance — usually equivalent to about one year of your salary. In fact, you may not even know you have it, since many employers pay for this coverage on your behalf and do not deduct it from your paycheck.

Employers also typically provide the opportunity for you to enroll for additional coverage that you pay for through payroll deduction.

Here are some advantages of buying life insurance at work.

Guaranteed coverage

Many employers allow you to enroll for coverage when you’re first hired without answering any questions about your health — meaning you won’t be declined for coverage. Some employers also offer guaranteed coverage increases when you experience a big life change, like getting married or having a baby.

Group rates

The rates you pay for coverage are based on the overall health of a group, rather than just you individually. That can make group insurance more affordable than going out and buying life insurance on your own, depending on your age and your health.

Easy enrollment

You’re already enrolling for other benefits — so checking the box for life insurance is easy. And because most employers offer payroll deduction, you don’t have to remember to pay the bill.

Considerations for buying life insurance through your employer

Employer-provided life insurance can have a few limitations to consider, as well.

It’s usually temporary

Most life insurance coverage through your employer is  term life insurance , which provides coverage for a specific period of time — in this case, it’s your period of employment. 

If you decide to retire or leave your current employer, your coverage will end, although many employers' plans offer options to continue your coverage.

Limited customization

You usually aren’t able to customize the policy features your employer selected.

Limited coverage amounts

Based on your family’s financial goals and obligations, you may find that you need more life insurance than you can get through your employer.

Review your options  to determine if it offers the level of coverage you need to protect your family and provide them with the financial support they would need if they lost you.

Is one year’s salary enough for life insurance?

In many cases, an employer policy bases your life insurance coverage on a multiple of your salary. Generally, the coverage you’re automatically enrolled for is just one year’s salary.

If you are young, single and don’t have much debt, one year’s salary may be enough to help your family cover your debts and funeral costs.

But if you’re older — with a mortgage, a higher salary and family members dependent on your income — one year’s salary may not be enough.

Use our insurance needs calculator to do the math and determine what amount of coverage is right for you.

To make up the difference, you can typically purchase more coverage through your employer’s plan or you can purchase an individual life insurance policy on your own.

Should you buy additional life insurance through your employer?

Most employers’ plans offer the option to elect additional coverage beyond what they automatically provide.

You pay the premium for this supplemental coverage, usually through payroll deduction. Typically, your premiums will increase as you get older.

Insurance coverage through your employer is offered at affordable group rates, so purchasing extra coverage may be a good deal for you and be more affordable than individual life insurance.

Purchasing life insurance coverage on your own

Just because your employer offers life insurance doesn’t mean you can’t also purchase coverage on your own. There are a number of reasons this may be wise:

There are many ways to purchase additional life insurance coverage. Talk to a financial professional or your bank or credit union to learn more about your options.

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You may be surprised to learn how much life insurance you need.     

Life insurance products contain fees, such as mortality and expense charges (which may increase over time), and may contain restrictions, such as surrender periods.

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Human Resources

Employee Benefits

Business Insurance 101: What You Need to Know

6 min. Read


Table of Contents

A refresher in business insurance is beneficial for both beginner and veteran business owners. It can be a complicated topic, so we hope this deep dive will help clarify what every business owner should know when it comes to insuring a business.

What is business insurance?

Business insurance is one of the best ways for business owners to manage risk. It's a useful tool that can help companies manage losses arising from unplanned or unforeseen events. Indeed, a natural disaster, cyberattack, or just one personal liability claim can wipe out a business — especially one that has recently begun operations.

By evaluating and understanding the unique risks to a company, owners and managers can determine which type of insurance policy works best. Speaking with an experienced insurance professional who is familiar with business risks can help you find the best and most economical insurance coverage.

Top 3 reasons why business insurance is important

Owning and operating a small business can be a risky process. To protect against potential threats to your bottom line, having business insurance is crucial. Consider these compelling reasons:

Types of business insurance

As a business owner, you need ample insurance protection for the various risks you face just by opening your doors. You may need insurance protection for employees. You may need insurance in place to protect your assets and even the business itself. Liability insurance may be necessary to protect your personal finances as well. With numerous types of insurance necessary to operate a business safely, business owners overlook it at their own peril.

The 4 primary types of business insurance you need for protection

Here's a quick look at the four primary types of insurance every business should consider:

Property insurance for businesses

Owning property as a business means that there is a need for insurance to cover it — in fact, it's mandatory. Property insurance for commercial buildings should include protection from weather events such as wind and hailstorms, as well as damage from fire, smoke, vandalism, theft, and civil disobedience. This insurance should cover the building as well as business interruption, assets, company papers, money, and lost income.

A strong commercial property policy can cover repair or replacement costs of physical assets, including:

Liability insurance for businesses

Both general and product liability insurance may be necessary for your business operations. General liability insurance helps cover legal hassles due to the claims of customers or others that are the result of accidents or injuries. Claims of negligence can be very costly for a business to cover outright, but this type of policy covers property damage, bodily injury, libel, slander, and defense against lawsuits. Product liability, also important for businesses selling products, helps to protect a company against damages resulting from defects that can cause bodily harm to the consumer.

A third type, called professional liability insurance, provides protection from risks such as errors, negligence, and malpractice. Some state laws may require you to have this type of insurance, especially if you are a doctor or a dentist.

Workers' compensation

Workers' compensation insurance provides wage replacement and medical/rehab benefits to employees injured in the course of employment. This is different from disability insurance, which pays benefits to workers who become injured or ill due to non-work-related circumstances. It is mandatory for many businesses with employees to carry workers' compensation insurance.

Before workers' comp laws were put into place, many employees either couldn't afford to take legal action against their employer or would run out of money as they waited for the case to be tried. As a result, individual states stepped in and created workers' comp insurance to pay for qualified expenses, and ultimately to avoid having to determine who was at fault.

Workers' compensation helps employees pay for qualified expenses related to workplace injury or illness. Depending on state laws, these may include:

Currently, every state in the union except Texas requires employers to carry workers' comp coverage, and each state determines the amount and duration of workers' compensation benefits and how those benefits are administered. Most employers are now required by state law to carry this type of insurance. However, some states have their own plan, which discourages competition from private insurers. Several other states require workers' compensation insurance only for employers with more than a certain number of employees.

Not having workers' compensation insurance where mandated is a criminal offense, and the penalties can be severe. Fines can reach thousands of dollars per day for noncompliance, as well as any loss of revenue due to business closure, until coverage is in place. In the event of an accident, the penalties can be even more, as the employer is responsible for all medical bills, lost wages, and potential litigation.

Workers' compensation insurance can involve large payments that could potentially cause serious cash flow problems for your business. That's because payments are often based on an estimate of wages paid to employees based on risk (e.g., it's more expensive to cover electricians than to cover clerical workers). Because premiums are based on estimated payroll and not on actual wages paid, insurers may require a large upfront payment. And if the estimate is found to be low at the end of the year, you'll have to pay the difference in one lump sum.

However, a licensed insurance agency can provide you with competitive quotes, possibly secure you with discounts when purchased with other types of insurance with the same carrier, and help you manage your plan more efficiently. Furthermore, integrating your workers' compensation policy with payroll services can provide increased benefits such as no upfront deposits, billing based on actual payroll instead of estimates, and minimized risk of paying additional year-end premiums.

Commercial auto insurance

Commercial auto insurance covers the vehicle used for your business, protecting you and your business from liabilities and claims that may not be covered under a personal auto policy. If your business uses vehicles, whether they're owned by the company or by you or your employees, it's important — and often required — to carry commercial auto insurance because your personal auto policy will likely not cover substantial damage or loss.

If an accident is caused by a driver with no insurance or not enough insurance to cover damages to you or your property, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage can help fill the gap. If you or an employee is involved in an accident in a commercial vehicle, personal injury protection (PIP) insurance can help pay the costs related to injuries, regardless of who is at fault.

Most states require a minimum amount of commercial auto liability coverage for vehicles used for business purposes.

What is a business owner's policy?

It doesn't take a natural disaster to wipe out your business. Even a single personal liability claim could close your doors forever — the actions you've taken to prepare will make all the difference. With that in mind, you might consider a standard business owner's policy (BOP).

A BOP can cover a range of property and liability exposures with a single policy, acting like a homeowner’s policy to protect your business and simplifying the need to buy coverages separately. Buying business insurance policies individually is inefficient and expensive. BOP insurance bundles the coverages you need into a single, convenient package — typically at a lower cost. In most cases, coverage may be added to meet additional needs and industry requirements.

A standard business owner's policy typically offers the following baseline coverage:

A business owner's policy combines coverage for standard property and liability insurance risks into one convenient package, making it particularly economical for your business insurance needs.

Finally, understanding specialized risks can help ensure that the correct insurance policy is purchased. Individual state insurance requirements for businesses may also be a factor when choosing coverage.

Other types of business insurance

Depending upon the nature of your business, it's advisable to evaluate other types of insurance for your business. These include:

Errors and omissions insurance

Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance is a form of liability protection to address losses that traditional liability insurance doesn't cover. Should you be sued by a customer for some negligent actions or specific errors and omissions that occur as a result of business activities, E&O insurance can guard against significant financial penalties.

This type of insurance may be appropriate for businesses that serve clients for a fee, such as contractors in the building trades. The policies often cover the business owner, salaried and hourly employees, and subcontractors.

Employment practices liability insurance

This form of insurance is designed to safeguard businesses against employee claims regarding violations of their legal rights as workers.

Among the claims covered by employee practices liability insurance (EPLI) are wrongful termination, breach of employment contract, charges of sexual harassment, failure to promote, and mismanagement of employee benefit plans.

Costs of EPLI coverage vary, depending on your industry, size of your workforce, and whether there's any history of similar employment-related litigation in the past. Often, the policies cover legal expenses, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. In general, they do not compensate punitive damages or a criminal or civil fine.

Umbrella coverage for businesses

What happens if your commercial property and general business policy limits fall short when you need them most? Your finances may still be safe if you extend your coverage with commercial umbrella insurance . This policy covers you and your business for losses above and beyond your existing insurance, effectively extending your coverage once the liability limits for your existing policies have been met. It can help you:

Many small business owners find renewed confidence once their companies have a safety net in the event of an unexpected event.

Cyber protection for businesses

Businesses of all sizes face significant cyberthreats, including:

Any of these cyberattacks can have a devastating effect on a small business. Hackers could siphon off a business's capital and ruin the owner's credit. Worse still, they could gain access to sensitive customer information (social security numbers, credit card numbers, home addresses, etc.), wreaking havoc on those individuals' lives and tarnishing your business's hard-earned reputation.

Most traditional business insurance policies don't cover the range of expenses incurred by a cyberattack. These can include interruption of business operations, customer notifications and discounts, and security upgrades.

As with any insurance coverage, policies differ in what may be covered. When looking into what's best for your business, keep these elements in mind:

A customized cyber liability policy may make the difference between recovering from a cyberattack and losing everything you've worked so hard to establish.

Group health insurance

Group health insurance plans cover groups of two or more people: typically, an employer, two or more employees, and their families. Group insurance is a particularly effective option for helping businesses attract qualified job candidates and reduce employee turnover .

Depending on the needs of the business, its employees, and the offerings of the carrier, group insurance plans can include a range of coverage including, but not limited to, medical, dental, vision, life, and long- and short-term disability insurance. Group insurance typically does not refer to coverages a business owner would have to protect themselves, their business, and their property (commonly referred to as property and casualty insurance).

Unlike individual insurance, where employees pay separately for 100 percent of their own premiums, group insurance allows employers and employees to share the costs, with employers covering some part of the premium cost for a single employee or dependents. Businesses that offer group health insurance may also be eligible for federal and state tax credits, depending on their size and situation.

While group insurance is an effective, and in many cases, less-expensive option for many small businesses, in some cases individual insurance may be the better choice. By reviewing your situation and options with a licensed insurance agent, you can determine which type of insurance is the best choice for you and your business.

There are many complex tasks that must be done to select the right group insurance plan and keep it running smoothly. These steps include:

Obtaining the necessary quotes, enrolling employees, and monitoring the plans can be time-consuming and, if you're thinking of doing it yourself, may result in costly errors or oversights that prevent you from getting the right coverage at the right price while staying in compliance with the law. A full-service, experienced employee benefits agency can dedicate time and expertise to your situation so you can take the guesswork out of finding and administering a group health plan.

Health benefits accounts

With health care reform and retirement security in the news, the importance of health savings accounts (HSAs) has gained simultaneous momentum. Congressional Republicans, in their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, include expanded use of HSAs because they increase consumer control over health care spending and offer major tax advantages.

Created by Congress and signed into law in 2003, the HSA combines a high-deductible health insurance plan with a tax-advantaged savings account. It resembles a personal savings account, but the funds are used to pay health care costs. The account holder owns the money and the interest it earns. They control how HSA money is spent. Contributions, up to specific limits, are tax-free, earnings accumulate tax-free, and distributions are tax-free for qualified medical expenses.

Money in an HSA:

Because of an HSA’s structure and requirements for use, businesses must take care to educate employees about these plans, ideally during open enrollment for workplace benefits. For instance, if you choose to match a portion of workers' contributions, communicate this incentive as a way to encourage participation. With the right HSA in place , employers can use financial planning education to help employees understand the complementary role that these accounts and other 401(k)-type savings plans can play in a long-term saving strategy.

Individual and voluntary health insurance

Individual insurance policies are purchased by an individual on a case-by-case basis; voluntary insurance is employer-sponsored and offered to all eligible employees through payroll deductions. A voluntary benefits plan allows you to offer specific benefits for your employees at little or no cost to you. Voluntary insurance allows your employees to help determine their own insurance benefits, which they pay for out of pocket. It can supplement your company's group health plan or stand on its own, and any employer contributions are purely voluntary.

Voluntary insurance covers a wide range of benefit options , and is often used to help employees secure individual life and disability coverage, regardless of their medical histories.

Coverage options include:

These types of insurance offer similar coverage options, and many employers opt to offer group insurance to their employees as well as voluntary insurance. By evaluating your current stage of business growth along with your budget and employee needs, you can decide which type of insurance is right for your business at this time.

How to find the best insurance policy for your company's needs

Business insurance is a useful tool that can help small companies manage losses arising from unplanned or unforeseen events. By evaluating and understanding the unique risks to a company, owners and managers can determine which type of policy works best.

The first step is to determine whom and what you want to cover. There are many factors to take into account, some of which include certain government-mandated lines of insurance, business stage, and whether you want to pay for your employees’ benefits. Evaluate whether you want to utilize insurance as a way to attract and retain employees. Although some decisions on a purchase of coverage are resolved immediately, there are many factors that need to be evaluated and acted upon on an ongoing basis.

As you research the right insurance for your business, consider the following:

The best way to help yourself is to speak with an experienced insurance professional who is familiar with business risks and can find you the best and most economical insurance coverage. For example, Paychex Insurance Agency's licensed agents can help you shop and compare policies. We can help:

Still have questions about how you can protect what you've worked so hard to build? Talk to a Paychex licensed agent to discuss your options.

It is important to read and understand your insurance coverage.

* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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The Bottom Line

Life Insurance

Is Your Employer-Provided Life Insurance Coverage Enough?

Here’s why you may need to supplement it with an individual policy

Amy Fontinelle has more than 15 years of experience covering personal finance, corporate finance and investing.

insurance policy for company employees

What Is Employer-Provided Life Insurance?

Employer-provided life insurance is group term life insurance that may be offered as part of your employee benefits package. If available, it is an option for all of a company's employees.

Term life insurance provides a death benefit for the insured's beneficiary. It remains in effect only for a specific length of time. For employer-provided term life insurance, that effective time period is while an employee remains employed by the company.

The amount of coverage is typically determined using a multiple of an employee’s annual salary. Or it may be linked to an employee's position at the company. Usually, employers pay most or all the premiums. 

Employer-provided life insurance can be a good benefit, especially if you have no other life insurance in place. Bear in mind, though, that it applies only to the employee, and not to their spouse or children. Also, it’s important to consider whether the coverage offered is sufficient to meet your financial needs.

Learn how to determine whether you should buy an additional individual life insurance policy outside of your employer and about the risks of relying only on an employer-provided plan.

Key Takeaways

Click Play to Learn When You Should Get Supplemental Life Insurance

Benefits of employer-provided life insurance.

Convenience: If employee life insurance is made available to you by your company, starting coverage is simple. Just opt in.

Savings: Because employers usually pay for all or most of company life insurance premiums, employees can save or use for other needs the money they would have spent on coverage.

Acceptance: Most employee life insurance plans are guaranteed, meaning you'll be accepted whether you have serious medical conditions or not.

Early Protection: When you're just starting out or early in your career, you may not have the funds needed for life insurance. Employee life insurance can provide a degree of financial security for those who depend on you.

Added Coverage: You can usually increase your coverage as life events and needs change. An employer may offer the option of paying an additional premium amount to increase basic protection.

Riders for Extra Protection: An employer may offer riders (e.g., for certain degrees of illness and disability) to your basic policy that you may purchase for added protection.

Reasons Why You May Want Additional Life Insurance

Your employer may not offer enough life insurance.

While basic employer-provided life insurance is usually low-cost or free, and you may be able to buy additional coverage at low rates, your policy’s coverage may not be enough to meet your needs. Many employers provide employees with about $50,000 to $100,000 worth of coverage, or about a year's salary.

If you have dependents who rely on your income, then you may require additional coverage to provide for their needs in the event of your death. Some experts recommend getting coverage worth five to 10 times your salary.

“Most people are able to buy an additional four to six times their salary in supplemental coverage over and above what’s provided by their employer,” says Brian Frederick, a certified financial planner (CFP) with Stillwater Financial Partners in Scottsdale, Ariz. “While this amount is sufficient for some people, it isn’t enough for employees that have non-working spouses, a sizable mortgage, large families, or special-needs dependents.”

On the other hand, not everyone needs life insurance. If you have no dependents or have an alternative plan for providing for them, your employer’s group life insurance might be sufficient. You may simply rely on the group life insurance, for example, to cover your funeral expenses or debts.

Keep in mind that simply multiplying your salary may not be enough to replace your actual income. Take into account bonuses, commissions, second incomes, and the value of additional benefits such as medical insurance and retirement contributions.

You Can Lose Your Coverage If Your Job Situation Changes

As with health insurance, you want to avoid gaps in your life insurance coverage. If you change jobs, are laid off, or are reduced to part-time status, then you could lose your employer-provided life insurance.

Some policies do allow you to convert your group policy to an individual one, but it likely would be more expensive.

You can generally find a more cost-efficient insurance policy outside of the employer’s plan, says Thaddeus J. Dziuba III, a life insurance specialist for PRW Wealth Management in Quincy, Mass. However, if you can no longer get medically underwritten for new insurance, you may want to opt for the conversion regardless of price, he said.

Even if you don’t leave your job, not having additional coverage can be a risk because of the possibility that your employer stops offering life insurance as a benefit.

Getting Coverage Is More Difficult When Your Health Declines

If you’re leaving your job because of a health problem or if your health has declined, you may struggle to get new insurance because insurers factor in your health when they approve you for a policy. A medial exam is a standard part of the process of applying for most life insurance policies.

“If you rely solely or heavily upon group insurance, and then suffer a medical condition that forces you to leave your job, you may be losing your life insurance coverage just when your family is going to need it the most,” says Jim Saulnier, a CFP with Jim Saulnier & Associates in Fort Collins, Colo.

At that point, it may be too late to purchase your own policy at an affordable rate, if you can get one at all, Saulnier says. So, having additional coverage outside your employer's plan can minimize the risk that you won't qualify for coverage when you need it.

Your Plan Doesn’t Provide Enough Coverage for Your Spouse

Your employer’s benefits package may not provide life insurance for your spouse. If it does, then the coverage may be minimal.

"Families can often suffer economic hardship if either spouse dies, not just the primary breadwinner dies," says Saulnier. However, in many cases, employer-provided insurance does not adequately insure the spouse of the employee.

If your current employer-sponsored coverage doesn’t offer a sufficient death benefit for your spouse, then you may want to consider purchasing a separate policy.

Employer-Provided Life Insurance May Not Be Your Cheapest Option

Even if you feel that the life insurance coverage from your employer is sufficient, consider shopping around to see if your employer’s insurance really offers the best value.

The younger and healthier you are, the more likely you will be to find a better rate elsewhere. The coverage provided by employers tends to get more expensive as you age. In contrast, you can purchase guaranteed level-premium term life insurance that costs you the same amount every year for as long as you have the policy.

“Employer coverage starts out being very cheap prior to age 35 and then rapidly increases in price,” says Frederick. “Most policies increase every five years and become incredibly expensive once the employee turns 50. If you are healthy and a nonsmoker, buying a stand-alone policy might be cheaper than taking coverage through your employer.”

When shopping for individual life insurance, consider whether it makes sense to include any riders such as an accelerated death benefits rider, a guaranteed insurability rider, or a long-term care rider.

Supplement Employer-Provided Life Insurance With a Policy of Your Own

Taking advantage of any free or inexpensive life insurance offered by your employer is often a wise financial move, but it may not be in your best interest to rely on it for your only life insurance coverage. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to buy additional coverage.

You can purchase other life insurance policies, such as an individual term life policy or a permanent life policy . Term life insurance offers lower premiums, but is only effective for a set period of time. Whole life policies (a type of permanent life policy) tend to have higher premiums, but they remain in effect until your death and can provide a cash value component.

In general, aim to buy the most insurance for your needs that you can afford at the youngest age. As you get older, your health could decline and your premiums could increase.

If you have other assets that can provide for your dependents, such as investments or money in retirement accounts, then you may need less life insurance. But, if you can afford to, err on the high side when estimating your coverage needs, in part because inflation could erode the value of your policy.

How Much Supplemental Life Insurance Is Necessary?

Life insurance needs are unique to an individual's financial situation, including their dependents and budget. One way to determine how much coverage you need is to multiply your annual salary by a certain factor. Many financial advisors recommend about five to 10 times your annual salary in coverage.

For an estimate tailored to your needs, consider first how much of your annual income that your dependents rely on and how many years they are likely to need it. For example, if you have very young children, then you will need to replace more years of income than if your kids were teenagers or older.

So, for instance, if your family should need $100,000 a year for 10 years to cover their living expenses, then ideally, you should have at least $1 million in life insurance.

Also, consider any large expenditures beyond your dependents' everyday needs. For example, if you expect to pay for your children's college education, then factor in those costs.

Once you've decided on how much life insurance you need in total, consider how much coverage your company life insurance provides and then purchase a supplemental policy to make up the gap.

What Is a Good Amount for Life Insurance?

A good amount of life insurance is an amount that will provide a death benefit that can protect your family from financial struggle, as well as one that you can afford. Many financial advisors say a reasonable amount for life insurance is five to ten times the amount of your annual salary. For some people, life insurance may not be an ideal financial tool at all.

Should I Get Life Insurance Outside of My Employer?

You may want to consider purchasing life insurance outside your employer if the coverage you are receiving from the group plan is not enough. A common rule of thumb is to have five to 10 times your annual salary in coverage. Another reason for an outside policy is that if you leave your employer, you will likely be uncovered.

What Do You Need Life Insurance for?

You need life insurance if you want to ensure that you can financially provide for dependents in the event of your death. A life insurance benefit can cover or defray the costs of your funeral and burial expenses. It can pay for your loved ones' living expenses for a certain amount of time. It can also pay for your mortgage or other debts. The more life insurance you have, the more protection you can provide to your dependents.

Company life insurance, or employer-provided group term life insurance, offers employees a convenient and easy way to get some degree of protection for their dependents by simply signing up for it.

The amount of coverage provided through such programs may not meet all your financial needs and won't continue to cover you should you leave your employer. However, company life insurance can be worth opting into for its fast access to coverage and savings on premium costs.

Should you find that more is needed, you may be able to get additional coverage through your company plan. Or, you can purchase a supplemental plan outside of your company.

Guardian. " Is Life Insurance You Have Through Work Enough? "

Progressive. " Do Single People Need Life Insurance? "

Protective Life Insurance Company. " Life Insurance Policy Options if You Leave Your Employer ."

Fidelity Life. " About Life Insurance Medical Exams ."

Nationwide. " How to Shop for Life Insurance ."

New York Department of Financial Services. " Types of Policies ."

Texas Department of Insurance. " Do You Need Life Insurance? "

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