WorkSafeNB Responds with Relief from Skyrocketing WorkSafeNB Premiums
The newly elected New Brunswick government has kept its promise and quickly passed legislation that will provide an increased level of fairness to the workers’ compensation system in the province. The changes correspond to the consistent call from the Retail Council of Canada and from stakeholders across New Brunswick to curtail the unprecedented power of the province’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT).
Once the legislation was proclaimed, WorkSafeNB announced that it has rolled back the average employer premium for 2019 from $2.92 to $2.65.
The government legislation is an important first step in tackling the many issues plaguing New Brunswick’s workers’ compensation system.
Most of the ongoing problems with the workers’ compensation system were created through the passage of misguided legislation in 2014. Since 2016, the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and most employers in the province demanded that the provincial government admit its mistake, amend its legislation and restore balance to the province’s workers’ compensation system.
The former government’s consistent refusal to make these legislative changes resulted in the average workers’ compensation employer premiums increasing by 163 percent between 2016 and the 2019 rate announcement this Fall. This despite a report from the Auditor General and another report from a government appointed Ministerial Taskforce of employers and workers that were both highly critical of government decisions related to WorkSafeNB, the administrative performance of the organization and the 2014 legislative changes.
During this time, the province was not experiencing more accidents and benefit levels were not changing dramatically. However, lost time duration and hearing loss claims have increased.
The main reason for the skyrocketing premiums came from the 2014 legislative changes that gave the WCAT the power to not only overrule WorkSafeNB decisions but to interpret and nullify WorkSafeNB policy. This gave WCAT in New Brunswick more authority than was seen with appeals tribunals anywhere else in Canada. Unlike WorkSafeNB, WCAT did not have a mandate to consider the overall health of the workers’ compensation system and thus, the shortcomings of the system were exposed by WCAT decisions. WCAT rulings began to change how a compensable injury or disease is determined which quickly increased immediate and future costs to the system and thus, to New Brunswick employers.
RCC is a member of the Coalition of New Brunswick Employers, which worked with all political parties to push for a fix to the province’s workers’ compensation system. After years of frustration, the Fall 2018 election of a new provincial government in New Brunswick resulted in a promise to improve the province’s workers’ compensation system based on the recommendations of the 2018 Ministerial Taskforce.
The newly enacted legislation reigns in the power of WCAT. The legislation also restores the policy making authority of WorkSafeNB and allows it to make decisions that balance the needs of employers and workers with the overall health of the workers’ compensation system.
The only legislative change that RCC did not support was the elimination of the unpaid 3-day waiting period after a claim is submitted, before the applicant can begin receiving compensation. As an insurance system, RCC feels that the 3-day waiting period is similar to a deductible and is effective in curbing nuisance and minor claims. Nevertheless, this waiting period is unique to New Brunswick and thus, workers’ advocates wanted it eliminated. The Ministerial Taskforce agreed and thus, the government’s legislation will lower the waiting period from3 days to 2 days on July 1, 2019 before completely eliminating the waiting period on July 1, 2021.
Retail Council of Canada (RCC) continues to work with the Coalition of New Brunswick Employers to call for the remaining Ministerial Task Force’s recommendations to be implemented.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at: email@example.com or 902-422-4144