Do You Have Workers' Comp Questions?

Sometimes there is confusion as to whether churches must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees including pastors. This confusion may exist due to requirements of taxing agencies such as the state Department of Revenue and the IRS. These agencies may classify pastors as self-employed for tax purposes. But under the workers’ comp law pastors are treated as employees and coverage must be obtained.

The purpose of the law is to protect covered workers from lost earnings and medical expenses arising from a workplace injury. (A workplace injury is a job related injury or illness to the worker.)  A workplace injury can occur away from the principal work location. In other words a pastor would be protected performing church related responsibilities away from church property. For example, does the pastor drive to conferences, hospitals or homes to visit sick members of the congregation, or other activities involving motor vehicle travel? Most every motor vehicle accident policy will have limitations on medical and strict limitations on lost earnings replacement. Workers’ compensation insurance policies in Kentucky have no limitations which provide a much greater benefit to the injured. In some churches the pastor may perform minor maintenance on the church building such as climbing a ladder to replace a light bulb. A fall could result in significant injuries and medical bills. These are only a few examples of injuries that can occur which could result in a claim being filed. Without a valid workers’ compensation insurance policy the employer could be held financially responsible. Additionally, any non-compliant employer is subject to a civil penalty issued by the commissioner of the Department of Workers’ Claims.

This provides a brief explanation of the Workers’ Compensation Act. It is intended to assist churches with compliance issues, protect covered employees,  and to provide an understanding of the workers’ compensation program.  Additional information is available by contacting the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Department of Workers’ Claims Compliance Branch at 1-502-564-5550 or 1-800-731-5241, or visit