Employers in New Brunswick will be taking a big hit next year when it comes to what they have to pay in workers’ compensation premiums.
As expected, WorkSafeNB has increased its assessment rate for a third straight year. The increase, which amounts to in excess of 70 per cent, will give New Brunswick the highest premiums in Canada. The average rate will be $2.92 per $100 of payroll, up from $1.70 in 2018.
“It’s going to hit employers, from the very smallest employers to the largest employers,” said Doug Jones, president and CEO of WorkSafeNB.
“Public sector, private sector, it’s going to hit everywhere.”
The Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce worries about the impact on small business.
WorkSafeNB blames higher rates on the increasing costs of workers’ compensation claims, saying employers will pay anywhere from several hundred to several-hundred-thousand dollars more next year. Jones says workplaces aren’t less safe, but claims are lasting longer.
A major aggravating factor appears to be the authority given to the external Appeals Tribunal.
“If they are in a position where they feel a policy wasn’t appropriate, they have the power to overturn that policy and it binds WorkSafe on all other policy matters,” explained Jones.
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An independent task force made more than two dozen recommendations this summer, including changes to current legislation with respect to the tribunal. Incoming government MLAs have been briefed on the situation.
The Conservative premier in waiting says action will be taken this fall in the legislature.
“We want employees to be assured that they have the protection they need and employers must be assured that they can still afford to stay in business,” said premier-designate Blaine Higgs.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees says changing the tribunal’s authority undermines its ability to be an independent body to the benefit of WorkSafeNB.
“So they can change the legislative benefits based on policy and not be bound by the legislation,” said CUPE National Rep. Mike Davidson. “So quite simply remove the appeals tribunal’s power.”
WorkSafe says it supports all of the task force’s recommendations.