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Workers' Compensation Insurance in Portugal: Quick Guide

By Bernardo Barbosa

Published on 16 April 2024

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Workers' compensation insurance is not just a legal formality, but a fundamental aspect of running a responsible business in Portugal. If you're an entrepreneur, you should grasp not only the mandatory nature of workers' compensation but also the depth of its benefits and coverage.

Workers' compensation insurance acts as a safety net, providing financial support and medical care for employees suffering from work-related injuries or illnesses. It also ensures that workers are adequately compensated, maintaining their livelihood and your business's integrity in the event of unfortunate incidents.

In Portugal, navigating the specifics of workers' compensation insurance requires a lot of attention to detail and a deep understanding of the legal framework. This quick guide aims to finally demystify workers' comp insurance, offering entrepreneurs a clear and comprehensive overview of the subject.

What is Workers' Compensation Insurance?

Workers' compensation insurance, also commonly referred to as workers' comp, is a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees in cases of work-related injury or illness. It's designed to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs for all kinds of on-the-job injuries.

Workers' comp insurance also offers benefits to dependents of workers who die as a result of their employment. In exchange, employees often forfeit their right to sue the employer for negligence. For this reason, workers' comp insurance is essentially a protection plan for both employers and employees.

Purchasing workers' compensation insurance is mandatory in many countries, including Portugal.

Is Workers' Compensation Insurance Mandatory in Portugal?

Yes, workers' compensation insurance is compulsory in Portugal. If you're a business owner based in the country, you're required by Portuguese Law to secure workers' compensation insurance for your company. Employees covered must include all of your workers, whether they're full- or part-time or on temporary contracts.

Not having workers' comp insurance in Portugal is considered to be a major offense. In addition, it forces the employer to pay for all expenses relating to workers' injury or illness (which should ideally be covered by the workers' compensation insurers).

Workers' Compensation Benefits

To buy workers' comp insurance is not just advised because it is mandatory. Any business owner should get it, regardless of whether they were forced to do it or not!

Before taking a closer look at the advantages of workers' compensation coverage, it's important to understand what the three essential workers' compensation benefits are:

1. Employee Protection: Covers medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages in cases of work-related injury or illness. It also includes death benefits.

2. Employer Protection: Limits the employer's liability and helps avoid potential lawsuits. Companies that provide workers' compensation coverage aren't normally subjected to lawsuits arising from workplace accidents.

3. Legal Compliance: Ensures that the business adheres to Portuguese regulations, assisting private companies in avoiding hefty legal fines.

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Pros and Cons of Workers' Compensation Insurance

All small business owners are required to carry workers' compensation insurance in Portugal. But in the end, is this good or bad for your company?

Like most things, workers' comp insurance in Portugal has its pros and cons. These are the main advantages and disadvantages of workers' comp for Portuguese entrepreneurs:

Advantages of Workers' Compensation Insurance

1. Legal Compliance: As we have seen, having workers' compensation insurance protects your company from potential fines or legal actions for non-compliance.

2. Employee Protection: Workers' comp provides financial support for employees who suffer a work-related injury or illness, covering medical expenses and lost wages.

3. Employers Liability: With workers' comp coverage, employees typically waive their right to sue the employer for negligence regarding workplace injuries, which can protect your company from costly lawsuits.

4. Reputation: Providing adequate support for injured employees helps maintain a positive reputation for your company, showing care for your workforce's well-being.

5. Financial Protection: In the event of an accident or illness, having workers' comp ensures that your company doesn’t face crippling financial burdens due to medical care bills or compensation payouts.

Disadvantages of Workers' Compensation Insurance

1. Costs: Workers' compensation insurance can be costly, especially if your business operates in a high-risk industry or has a history of frequent claims.

2. Administrative Burden: Managing a workers' comp claim requires timely reporting, documentation, and cooperation with the insurance company, which in turn requires a lot of administrative resources.

3. Potential Premium Increases: Filing multiple claims or being in a high-risk industry may lead to increased premiums, impacting your company’s bottom line.

4. Fraudulent Claims: There’s a risk of fraudulent or exaggerated claims, which can increase workers' comp costs and affect your company’s trust in legitimate claims.

5. Complexity: Understanding and complying with workers' compensation insurance laws and regulations can be complex, requiring continuous monitoring.

How to Obtain Workers' Compensation Insurance in Portugal

Every workers' compensation system is different, but obtaining workers' comp insurance in Portugal generally involves the following steps:

1. Contacting insurance providers: Find the insurance company that best fits your business needs. Don't forget to compare several solutions to find the best workers' compensation premium.

2. Gathering information about your company: The employer's insurance company will want to know everything about your company, so be ready to hand them all the necessary information. This includes everything from your workers' compensation policy to your company's history of work-related injuries.

3. Comparing different coverages: Don't just go with the first insurance company that comes along! Make sure to carefully review the policy terms, coverage limits, exclusions, premiums, deductibles, and any additional services offered by different workers' comp insurance programs.

The workers' compensation system is pretty straightforward, and workers' comp is not at all hard to obtain. However, making the right decision and selecting the insurance company that best fits your needs isn't easy either. When in doubt, consult with professional insurance services for businesses.

Workers' Compensation Coverage in Portugal

As mentioned, workers' compensation insurance coverage typically includes several components to protect both employees and employers. But what are these components exactly?

  • **Medical Expenses:** This covers the cost of medical treatment, hospital stays, medications, surgeries, rehabilitation, and other medical care expenses related to workplace injury.
  • **Lost Wages:** If an employee is unable to work due to a job-site injury (for example), workers' comp pays for a portion of their wages while they're unable to work. This can include temporary total disability benefits or partial disability benefits (if the injured worker can only work in a reduced capacity).
  • **Permanent Disability:** If an injury results in a permanent disability that affects the employee's ability to work in the long term, workers' compensation may provide benefits for this loss of earning capacity.
  • **Vocational Rehabilitation:** Your workers' comp policy may cover the cost of rehabilitation services or vocational training to help an injured employee return to work or acquire new skills for a different job role if they cannot continue in their previous position due to the injury.
  • **Death Benefits:** When employee injury or illness leads to death, workers' comp provides benefits to the worker's dependents or beneficiaries, including funeral expenses and ongoing financial support.
  • **Legal Costs:** It may cover legal fees related to a workers' comp claim, including defense costs if an employee disputes the compensation provided.
  • **Disability Coverage:** This includes both temporary disabilities (partial or total) and permanent disabilities, compensating for lost income due to the inability to work.

The depth of coverage provided by insurance companies varies according to the workers' compensation programs in the offering.

How Much Does Workers' Compensation Insurance Cost?

Workers' compensation programs vary extensively, and so does their cost. While it's almost impossible to predict exactly how much insurance companies will charge you for workers' comp, knowing the general and particular aspects that affect its price can be very helpful.

General Aspects Affecting the Cost of Workers' Comp Insurance

The following factors generally affect the cost of workers' compensation in Portugal:

  • **Industry risk:** The higher the workplace injury risk, the higher the cost of the insurance. Premiums for a construction worker, for example, are generally higher than premiums for a state agency office worker.
  • **Claims history:** Does your company have a history of injured workers? Is physical injury common? How many workplace accidents does it have per year? All of this is taken into account by insurance companies.
  • **Company size:** Larger companies usually have to pay for higher premiums.
  • **Safety measures:** Companies with a robust workers' compensation policy tend to be favored by private insurers.
  • **Coverage limits:** The extent of coverage required, including medical treatment, disability, and death benefits, will affect the cost.
  • **Location:** Regional differences might affect insurance costs due to varying risk factors in some countries, but they're usually irrelevant in Portugal.

Particular Aspects Affecting the Cost of Workers' Comp Insurance

In Portugal, your insurance company will determine the cost of your workers' compensation insurance based on:

  • **Wage Mode:** Do your employees work full- or part-time? What are their job titles? The wage modes stipulated in Portugal's Labour Code can influence workman's comp.
  • **Number of employees:** Workers' comp can cover one or more employees and is costlier depending on the number of employees covered.
  • **Monthly wage and benefits:** The more an employee costs a company, the more workers' compensation will cost the company.

Employers are mandated to buy workers' compensation insurance as a way to ensure that all employees are covered in case of workplace injuries or occupational diseases. This insurance is critical as it provides financial and medical support to employees during their recovery. The workers' compensation cost can vary widely depending on factors such as the industry, the number of employees, and the specific risk levels associated with the job roles. Understanding these costs is vital for businesses as they plan their financial strategies and ensure compliance with Portuguese labor laws.

Case Study: A Local Café in Lisbon

We couldn't end our quick guide on compensation insurance without a particular case study. To illustrate the importance of workers' compensation, let's take a look at a hypothetical workplace accident that took place in a local Lisbon café:

Background

Maria owns a small café in Lisbon with ten employees. One day, João, a barista, slipped on a wet floor and fractured his arm. Luckily, Maria has a strong workers' comp policy in place at her café, which helps cover medical expenses for injured workers.

Cost Breakdown

  • Medical costs: €2,000
  • Physical therapy: €800
  • Lost wages (2 months): €3,000

The Result

Without workers' compensation insurance, Maria would have been liable for all the expenses listed in our cost breakdown, which total a hefty €5,800. With the insurance, Maria only had to pay her annual premium of €1,500, saving her business €4,300 in unexpected expenses.

In addition to protecting the workers injured, Maria's workers' compensation insurance offered her liability protection from the get-go and cash benefits that included saving two months in lost wages!

Linking to Other Business Insurance Types

For a more comprehensive understanding of business insurance in Portugal, check out our guide to the different types of business insurance in Portugal.
If you're a Portuguese employer, don't forget to check our quick guide on health insurance for employees too!
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How is the premium determined for workers' compensation insurance?

The premium is typically based on the payroll, the nature of the job of the injured worker, and the claims history of a company. Workers' compensation prices can also be affected by a company's own rules regarding work safety and claim process guidelines.

Are all injuries covered under workers' compensation insurance?

Generally, workers' compensation covers injuries that occur in the course of employment. However, injuries due to intoxication or intentional self-harm might not be covered.

Can an employee refuse the benefits and opt to sue?

In most cases, accepting workers' compensation benefits means relinquishing the right to sue the employer. However, employers' liability may not apply in cases of extreme negligence.

What if an employee gets injured while working remotely?

With the rise of remote work, many policies now cover injuries that occur during work hours at home, but specifics can vary. This is a relatively recent and complicated matter, though, as many at-home injuries may not be the direct result of the employee's work, hence failing to qualify as an occupational disease.

Are federal employees covered by workers' compensation insurance?

In general, federal employees and other state workers are insured in case they get injured or become ill.

How soon should an injury be reported?

Immediate reporting is ideal, but the policy or local regulations typically define a window. Reporting any injuries as soon as possible is crucial to ensure that the right benefits and the right benefit amount are activated.

Is workers' compensation mandatory for independent contractors?

Yes. In Portugal, workers' compensation is compulsory whether you're running a big or small business. In case your selected coverage doesn't cover claims that you consider to be important and you don't want to pay for an additional premium, you can opt to self-insure your business. This is a common practice that consists of setting aside some of your own money to attenuate unexpected expenses that may not be covered by all insurance companies.

How do workers' compensation death benefits work?

Workers' compensation death benefits are provided to the dependents or beneficiaries of an employee who dies as a result of a work-related injury or illness.

What is a workers' compensation board?

A workers' compensation board is a government entity responsible for overseeing and regulating workers' compensation within a particular jurisdiction. Its primary role is to administer and enforce workers' compensation laws and regulations to ensure fair treatment of injured workers while also protecting the rights of employers.

How does Workers' Compensation differ from employer's liability insurance?

While both insurances relate to employee injuries, workers' compensation covers medical bills and lost wages. In contrast, an employer's liability insurance protects against lawsuits where the employee believes the employer's negligence caused the injury.
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Written by Bernardo Barbosa

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