Can an independent operator benefit from CNESST personal protection?
The short answer: Yes! Is it simple? Not necessarily…
CNESST coverage for independent operators can prove to be a complex issue for both dance artists and cultural workers. All the more so since the definition of independent operators used by the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (LATMP) differs from the definition of independent operators used in tax law! And also because artist-performers have special status.
That is why we strongly encourage you to carefully read this article. Its goal is to enlighten you and help you take appropriate measures to protect yourself in the event of workplace injury.
Table of contents
According to the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (LATMP), an independent operator is “a natural person who carries on work for his own account, alone or in partnership, and does not employ any worker.”
According to the same law, all dance performers who perform paid work for an independent operator or an organization active in the production of shows (dance company, independent choreographer, event organizer, radio or television network, advertising agency, or any other organization or company that acts as a producer) are automatically considered as workers.
After analyzing more than a hundred collective agreements concluded under the Act respecting the professional status and conditions of engagement of performing, recording or film artists, the CNESST has determined that all artists performing a function represented by the Union des artistes, the Guilde des musiciens, ACTRA, AQTIS, etc. are presumed to have worker status and are automatically covered, whether or not they are members of these associations. According to this analysis, the employer is required to declare to the CNESST the remunerations they pay artist-performers, except when the latter supply their services through a corporation.
Thus, a performer may file a claim with the CNESST if they suffer injury during rehearsals or performances. If the employer is not registered with the CNESST, or if they have not declared the salaries of their performers, the CNESST will undertake to update their file to ensure that it complies with the law.
Chapter 6 of the Procedure to determine the status of a natural person for purposes of the contribution (in FR)
An independent operator who does not hire another worker is not required to register with the CNESST. However, if they wish to benefit from the protections offered under the LATMP, they can register for optional personal protection.
For example, an artist-performer begins work on a piece that they will perform solo. They complete the research and creation stages alone in the studio. They have complete control over their work, take on all financial risk associated with their creation, and employ no other workers. According to the LATMP, they count as an independent operator. They can therefore register for personal protection and benefit from CNESST protection in the event of a workplace accident. If an injury occurs while they are working and they are not registered for personal protection, the independent operator will have to cover the costs of rehabilitation themselves.
Personal protection (in FR)
In order to calculate the premium due to the CNESST, you must first determine the rate applicable to the unit corresponding to the activities performed by the person applying for protection. The unit for the creation, production, and presentation of dance works is 57010 and the premium rate associated with this unit is $1.51. That means that for every $100 paid in fees or salary, the employer or the independent operator has to pay a $1.51 premium to the CNESST.
In 2020, the minimum salary insurable by the CNESST for personal protection was $27,400. An independent operator wishing to benefit will thus have to pay $413.74 even if their annual income is under $27,400. If an independent operator earns more than $27,400, they will have to make the following calculation in order to determine the premium due:
Insurable salary x (premium rate) ÷ 100 = premium due
Example: ($28,000 $ x 1.51) ÷ 100 = $422.28
The premium must be paid in a lump sum. The CNESST will send a notice of assessment to the independent operator once their registration is confirmed. The premium is based on activities carried out on an annual basis. The operator could be refunded for the unused portion of their protection, prorated to their activities.
Example: Four months of activities over one year would entitle them to a refund equivalent to eight months.
Nonetheless, you must apply for a suspension in order to be entitled to this refund.
When an independent operator changes status over the course of the year, they can ask the CNESST to change or suspend their personal protection (in FR). This request can be made at any time of the year and as often as needed. The CNESST will then apply a credit to the premium due the following year.
For example, an artist has registered for personal protection for their own activities as an independent operator. Several times a year, they also work as a performer with independent artists and producers considered as employers by the CNESST. These employers are required to declare to the CNESST the fees paid to the artist as a performer. In such cases, it will be to the worker’s best interest to request the suspension of her personal protection in order to avoid double contributions on their earnings.
The information presented above is general in nature and does not express the opinion of the CNESST. For further information about Quebec occupational health and safety regulations, please call the CNESST at 1-844-838-0808.
If you need legal advice or guidance on the interpretation of applicable laws or regulations, consult a lawyer or notary.
Québec Danse portal
Health and safety resources
You can also communicate with the following associations and groups to obtain general information on occupational health and safety.
Union des artistes(in FR)
514 288-7150, extension 1000 or 1-877-288-6682 (toll free)
Union des travailleurs et travailleuses accidentés de Montréal (UTTAM) (in FR)
Aide aux travailleurs accidentés (Québec et Est du Québec) (in FR)
Updated in February 2021