This week, WorkSafeNB announced that its average employer assessment rate for 2020 will decrease by 9.4%. The average rate will move from the 2019 level of $2.65 per $100 of assessed payroll to $2.40 in 2020. This positive news follows action taking by WorkSafeNB in late 2018 to roll back the average employer premium for 2019 from $2.92 to $2.65. In one year, the average employer assessment has decreased by almost 18%.
Some of this rate decrease can be credited to the fact that employers continue to take steps to improve workplace safety and return to work programs. However, the primary reason for this rate decrease stems from the significant legislative changes made by the provincial government in 2018 and 2019. Following years of advocacy from Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and other stakeholders, the 2018 provincial election brought a new government to New Brunswick. RCC was pleased that the new government recognized the need to immediately pass legislation to bring an increased level of fairness to the workers’ compensation system in the province. A year after the passage of this legislation, employers continue to see the benefits.
Most of the problems with the workers’ compensation system and the skyrocketing premiums between 2015 and 2018 were created through the passage of misguided legislation in 2014. The 2014 legislation gave the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (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 was determined which quickly increased immediate and future costs to the system and thus, to New Brunswick employers.
The result was a 163 percent increase in the average workers’ compensation employer premiums between 2016 and the original assessed rates for 2019.
RCC and most employers in the province spent years demanding that the provincial government amend its legislation and restore balance to the province’s workers’ compensation system. The former government consistently refused to make these changes despite reports from the Auditor General and from a government appointed Ministerial Taskforce (consisting 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.
After years of frustration, the Fall 2018 election of a new provincial government in New Brunswick finally resulted in positive change and renewed fairness for the workers’ compensation system in New Brunswick. The most significant legislative change saw the restoration of the policy making authority of WorkSafeNB. This legislation reigned in the power of WCAT and allows WorkSafeNB to make decisions that balance the needs of employers and workers with the overall health of the workers’ compensation system. This legislative change prompted a rollback of the proposed employer assessment rates for 2019 followed by this week’s announcement of further rate decreases for 2020.
The decrease in the average assessment rate does not mean that all employers will experience a rate reduction. Rate categories and employer experience ratings play a significant role in determining the rate for individual employers. However, most New Brunswick employers should see a reduction in their assessment.
RCC encourages its members to review their WorkSafeNB assessments for the past 3-4 years. If a New Brunswick retailer does not see a rate decrease between 2019-2020, they should contact WorkSafeNB to inquire as to why the decrease did not occur.
Retail Council of Canada (RCC) will continue to work with the New Brunswick government and WorkSafeNB to ensure that the interests of employers are protected while the system remains viable.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at: [email protected] or (902) 422-4144