Kansas raises death benefits for workers

The state will raise benefits for families of workers who have been killed and for workers who have been permanently disabled. It's been more than a decade since the last meaningful updates to workers' compensation laws.


State News

May 30, 2024 - 2:39 PM

Gov. Laura Kelly participates in a ceremonial signing of a workers compensation reform law on May 29, 2024. Photo by Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — The state is set to bolster benefits for families of workers who have been killed and for workers who have been permanently disabled, marking change for the first time in more than a decade. 

Kansas workers will see the effects of the change in little more than a month, following the passage of legislation overhauling what have been some of the lowest workers’ compensation rates in the country. 

Senate Bill 430, a bipartisan law formed after vigorous negotiations with business and labor groups, will go into effect July 1. Lawmakers sent the bill to the governor in March, and she signed it April 11. Gov. Laura Kelly held a second ceremonial signing Wednesday to reiterate the law’s importance, surrounded by lawmakers, labor groups and members of the National Guard.

Kelly estimated the last meaningful updates to workers’ comp happened 13 years ago, and it took 24 years of work before that to achieve change.

“I remind you of this so we all truly appreciate how big a deal this really is,” Kelly said. 

A family of a worker killed on the job will receive up to $500,000 in death compensation benefits, up from the previous cap of $300,000. For a worker with an injury resulting in a permanent and total disability, benefits will be capped at $400,000, up from $155,000. Compensation benefits for a temporary total disability will go from the previous cap of $130,000 to $225,000. The benefits will also undergo cost-of-living adjustments starting in 2027.

“The bill’s language is the result of countless hours of effort by representatives of injured workers, industry, and the state to craft much-needed and meaningful updates to the Kansas Workers Compensation Act,” said Anton Andersen, a defense attorney and director for the Kansas Self Insurer’s Association.

Other changes include extending workers’ compensation coverage to those in the Kansas National Guard and decreasing the Social Security retirement offset for certain disability benefits.

“This legislation is a significant step in achieving a balance between the needs of workers and the realities of the business world,” said Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Amber Shultz. “We are proud to play a part in the creation of a more fair and equitable system.”

SB 430 also allows for the settlement of workers’ compensation cases without a formal court hearing and limits use of independent medical examinations, among other provisions. 

“It has been way too long since we have revised our worker compensation laws,” Kelly said in an interview after the signing. “This was absolutely necessary. We were one of the states with the lowest workers’ compensation of any state in the country.”