As promised shortly after forming government in November, the new Progressive Conservative government in New Brunswick has passed legislative amendments to strengthen the province’s workers’ compensation system. The new legislation will immediately reduce WorkSafeNB rate increases taking effect in 2019.
Restaurants Canada applauds the quick action on the part of the new PC government, as well as the support of all the MLAs from the three opposition parties who joined in passing the new legislation.
Relief is On the Way
For over two years, Restaurants Canada and other business associations have been lobbying the provincial government to reduce WorkSafeNB rate increases and reverse some of the other unforeseen consequences of legislative changes introduced by the previous Liberal government in 2015.
For many years, WorkSafeNB was one of the best run workers’ compensation systems in Canada. But the 2015 legislative changes depleted the system’s accident fund surplus and caused costs to soar.
The escalating costs are not related to workplace safety; the number of workplace accidents has not increased, and in fact has declined by 3.5 per cent since 2001. Costs are increasing because legislative changes have led to claims lasting longer and the workers’ compensation system paying for benefits not related to workplace injuries.
Despite a stabilization effort, the average assessment rate that employers pay for every $100 of payroll went from $1.11 in 2016 to $1.70 in 2018. The rate was scheduled to increase by a further 70 per cent to $2.92 as of Jan. 1, 2019 — a figure that’s almost double what employers were paying just two years earlier.
But thanks to the new legislation passed on Dec. 12 to reduce WorkSafeNB rate increases, the 2019 average assessment rate will only increase to $2.65, with further decreases expected over the long term.
A statement released from WorkSafeNB said the organization’s actuaries have reviewed the impact of the new legislation and “in accordance with current policies, have determined that a $94 million reduction in certain liabilities will be realized immediately, resulting in the lower rate for 2019.”
In July 2018, a Ministerial Task Force, comprised of equal representation of both workers and employers proposed a total of 28 recommendations to strengthen WorkSafeNB, with the intention to strike the right balance between compensation for injured workers, the employers’ financial interest and the long-term sustainability of the system. The new legislation passed on Dec. 12 addresses seven of the 12 recommendations requiring legislative change.
The new legislation is also eliminating the three-day waiting period during which an employee who suffered a work-related injury is not eligible for compensation. An initial elimination of one unpaid day will take effect on July 1, 2019 and the complete elimination of the unpaid waiting period will take effect by July 1, 2021. This change will likely lead to more short-term accident claims.
Restaurants Canada will continue to work with the new government in New Brunswick to ensure all of the recommendations of the WorkSafeNB Ministerial Task Force are implemented, which should lead to fewer accidents and lower assessment rates.
Legislation to strengthen the province’s workers’ compensation system and reduce WorkSafeNB rate increases is one of the key recommendations that Restaurants Canada made during the provincial election campaign in September.
Restaurants Canada looks forward to continuing to work with Premier Blaine Higgs and his minority government to achieve further progress on this and other issues of importance to the province’s foodservice sector, which were outlined in the new government’s throne speech on Nov. 20.
Questions About the New Legislation to Reduce WorkSafeNB Rate Increases?
If you have any questions or would like more information, you can get in touch with Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Atlantic Canada, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-387-5649 ext. 5000.