An employee who sustains a work injury may be entitled to disability benefits under Iowa workers' compensation law.
This page contains frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the weekly rate of disability benefits under Iowa law.
The FAQ pages are intended to provide general information about the Iowa workers' compensation system. For resources to help you get legal advice, click here.
- How often are work comp benefits paid?
- How is an injured employee's weekly benefit rate calculated?
- How are the factors used to calculate an injured employee's average gross weekly earnings?
- What is "overtime" for purposes of calculating an injured employee's gross weekly earnings?
- How is an injured employee's gross weekly earnings calculated?
- Full-Time Employee With Same Earnings Each Pay Period
- Full-Time Employee With Different Earnings Based on Output Each Payment Period
- Part-Time Employee at the Time of Injury
- Fire Fighter, Volunteer Emergency Rescue Technician, Emergency Medical Care Provider, Reserve Peace Officer, Volunteer Ambulance Driver, or Emergency Medical Technician Trainee at the Time of Injury
- Elected Officials
- How is the maximum number of exemptions to which an employee entitled determined?
- How do you compute the weekly benefit rate?
- What is average weekly wage?
- What is the maximum weekly benefit rate?
- What is the minimum weekly benefit rate?
- What is the mileage reimbursement rate?
Work comp benefits are paid weekly for the period of time during which an injured employee is entitled to benefits.
To calculate an injured employee's weekly work comp benefit rate:
- Determine the employee’s average gross weekly earnings and round to the nearest dollar, as detailed below.
- Determine the maximum number of exemptions to which the employee is entitled for actual dependency, blindness and old age, as detailed below.
- Determine the number of days in the specific week for which the employee is entitled work comp benefits, as detailed below.
The basis of compensation is the gross weekly earnings of the injured employee at the time of the injury. Gross earnings as recurring payments, by the employer to the employee, before any authorized or lawfully required deduction or withholding of funds, excluding irregular bonuses, retroactive pay, overtime pay, penalty pay, reimbursement of expenses, expense allowances, and employer’s contribution for welfare benefits.
The word “overtime” means amounts due in excess of the straight time rate for overtime hours worked. Such excess amounts are not not considered in determining gross weekly wages. Overtime hours at the straight time rate are included in determining gross weekly earnings. If extra benefits (earnings other than cash such as rent, food, etc.) are received as part of an employee’s wages, the weekly value of the extra benefits is to be included in the computation of the employee’s gross weekly earnings. If the extra benefits are continued during the period of time the employee is entitled to temporary disability benefits (TTD, HP, or TPD), the value of the extra benefits can be considered as a portion of payment in lieu of compensation and subtracted from the temporary disability benefits.
The law provides various methods of computing an injured employee's gross weekly earnings. The method used for a given employee depends on the method of payment of wages and, in some cases, the classification of the employee.
If the employee worked full-time at the time of the injury, earning the same amount each pay period, the method of computation depends on the length of time between pay periods:
- Weekly pay period: Gross weekly earnings equal the weekly gross amount.
- Biweekly pay period: Gross weekly earnings equal the biweekly gross amount divided by 2.
- Semimonthly pay period: Gross weekly earnings equal the semimonthly gross amount multiplied by 24 and divided by 52.
- Monthly pay period: Gross weekly earnings equal the monthly gross amount multiplied by 12 and divided by 52.
- Yearly pay period: Gross weekly earnings equal the yearly gross amount divided by 52.
If the employee worked full-time at the time of the injury, earning different amounts based on the employee’s output each pay period, the gross weekly earnings equal the total earnings (from the employer for whom the employee was working at the time of the injury) during the 13 weeks prior to the injury, divided by 13. The total earnings should exclude premium pay, but include overtime hours at the straight time hourly rate. If the employee was absent from employment for reasons personal to the employee during part of the thirteen calendar weeks preceding the injury, the employee's weekly earnings shall be the amount the employee would have earned had the employee worked when work was available to other employees of the employer in a similar occupation. A week which does not fairly reflect the employee's customary earnings shall be replaced by the closest previous week with earnings that fairly represent the employee's customary earnings.
If the employee has not worked for the employer for a 13-week period prior to the injury, the gross weekly earnings are to be computed by determining the total amount the employee would have earned had he been employed (and worked when work was available to similar employees) and dividing that amount by 13. If the earnings of other employees cannot be determined, the employee's weekly earnings shall be the average computed for the number of weeks the employee has been in the employ of the employer.
If the employee worked part-time at the time of the injury, the gross weekly earnings equal the total earnings from all employment during the 12 months prior to the injury divided by 50. (Generally an employee who works less than 30 hours per week is considered part-time.)
Volunteer Fire Fighters, Emergency Medical Care Providers, Reserve Peace Officers, & Volunteer Ambulance Drivers
If the employee was a volunteer fire fighter, emergency medical care provider, reserve peace officer, or volunteer ambulance driver at the time of the injury, the earnings of these individuals shall be disregarded and these individuals shall be paid an amount equal to what he or she would be paid if injured in the course of his or her regular employment or an amount equal to 140% of the statewide average weekly wage, whichever is greater.
Elected or appointed officials shall be paid an amount based on the official’s weekly earnings as an official or an amount equal to 140% of the statewide average weekly wage.
Other methods of computation of the gross weekly earnings for proprietors, limited liability company members, partners, officers of a corporation, apprentices, trainees, employees whose earnings have not been fixed or cannot be ascertained, inmates etc. can be found in Iowa Code section 85.36.
To calculate the weekly benefit rate for an injured employee's workers' compensation benefits, you must determine:
- The date of injury;
- The employee's average gross weekly earnings (as discussed above) and round to the nearest dollar; and
- The maximum number of exemptions to which the employee is entitled for actual dependency, blindness, and old age.
You then use this information and the Ratebook spreadsheet for the appropriate time period to identify the injured employee's weekly benefit rate. To view current and past Ratebook spreadsheets, click here.
The weekly rate for workers' compensation benefits is based on a seven-day calendar week. Each day of weekly benefits are calculated by multiplying the employee's weekly compensation benefit rate by the decimal equivalents of the number of days as follows:
- 1 day = .143 x weekly rate
- 2 days = .286 x weekly rate
- 3 days = .429 x weekly rate
- 4 days = .571 x weekly rate
- 5 days = .714 x weekly rate
- 6 days = .857 x weekly rate
- 7 days = 100% of weekly rate
DWC determines the statewide average weekly wage in effect beginning July 1 through June 30 of the following year. To view the average weekly wage currently in effect and past average weekly wage rates, click here.
DWC adjusts the maximum amount for the following types of weekly benefits:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
- Healing Period (HP)
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
The maximum weekly benefit amount depends on the type of workers' compensation benefit.
An injured employee's weekly benefit rate is based on 80% of the employee's weekly spendable earnings but is not to exceed the maximum allowable weekly rate at the time of the injury.
DWC determines the maximum weekly benefit rate in effect beginning July 1 through June 30 of the following year. To view the maximum weekly benefit rate currently in effect and past maximum weekly benefit rates, click here.
DWC adjusts the minimum amount for the following types of weekly benefits:
- Permanent partial disability (PPD)
- Permanent total disability (PTD)
The minimum weekly benefit amount for temporary total disability (TTD) or healing period (HP) benefits is equal to whichever is less of either:
- The weekly benefit amount of a person whose gross weekly earnings are 35% of the statewide average weekly wage; or
- The spendable weekly earnings of the employee.
DWC determines the maximum weekly benefit rate in effect beginning July 1 until June 30 of the following year. To view the minimum weekly benefit rate currently in effect and past minimum weekly benefit rates, click here.
For more information about workers' compensation in Iowa, click here.