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Aug
01 2018

For members with stores in New Brunswick: WorkSafeNB System is Broken – Needs to Be Fixed Immediately

Syndicated from: Retail Council of Canada – All updates

For members with stores in New Brunswick: WorkSafeNB System is Broken – Needs to Be Fixed Immediately PrintAugust 1, 2018After an average increase of 53 percent in employer premiums between 2016-2018, WorkSafeNB announced that even the most conservative estimate for 2019 will see an average rate increase of a whopping 58 percent. Employers across New Brunswick are reeling from what have become significant, annual rate increases. Government created this problem through misguided legislation in 2015. To date, the government has refused all industry requests for the legislation to be amended and balance to be restored to the province’s workers’ compensation system. This despite a report from the Auditor General that was highly critical of government decisions related to WorkSafeNB and to the administrative performance of the organization.  A provincial election will be held on September 24, 2018 and thus, it is unlikely that any changes to the workers’ compensation system will occur before the 2019 rates are set this fall. If the projected rates for 2019 become a reality, New Brunswick employers will be paying between $156-$185 million more in premiums than they did in 2016. The WorkSafeNB system is broken and needs to be fixed immediately. Background: During the same 2016-2018 time period all other provinces have seen their workers’ compensation rates decrease by an average of 8.3 percent. For the past three years, RCC has worked as a member of the Coalition of New Brunswick Employers to advocate against the systemic problems in the workers’ compensation system. In 2017, the Coalition successfully pushed the government to create a taskforce of employer and employee representatives to look at the workers’ compensation system and make recommendations for change. Following months of detailed consultations, the taskforce released its unanimous report in July 2018. The report calls for sweeping changes to the legislation related to workers’ compensation and to the system’s administrative practices. The unanimous support for the report shows an understanding from all sides that some form of balance needs to be brought to the system.  Without legislative change, the costs of the system will become unsustainable for many employers. This could impact employment and/or employee benefits in businesses across New Brunswick. The province is not experiencing more accidents and benefit levels have not changed dramatically. However, lost time duration and hearing loss claims have increased. These claims are compounded by the 2015 legislative changes that gave the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) the power to not only overrule WorkSafeNB decisions but to interpret and nullify WorkSafeNB policy. WCAT in New Brunswick has more authority than is seen with appeals tribunals anywhere else in Canada. Unlike WorkSafeNB, WCAT does not have a mandate to consider the overall health of the workers’ compensation system and thus, the shortcomings of the current system have been exposed by WCAT decisions. WCAT rulings have changed how a compensable injury or disease is determined which has quickly increased immediate and future costs to the system and thus, to New Brunswick employers  The system imbalance has also resulted in directives for WorkSafeNB to include non-compensable intervening conditions as acceptable reasons to continue an injured employee’s workers’ compensation benefits. This has effectively moved workers’ compensation in New Brunswick away from being an insurance program. It is now being managed more like a social program as it is covering non-work-related illnesses and driving up system costs. Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that must follow strict rules regarding its balance sheet and thus, there is little that can be done without a commitment from government to make legislative change.  Next Steps: Retail Council of Canada (RCC) continues to work with the Coalition of New Brunswick Employers to oppose the increases and call for virtually all of the Task Force’s recommendations to be implemented. The most important recommendations are those that call for legislative change to the province’s Workers’ Compensation Act that would bring balance to the system. For balance to be achieved, policy making authority must be returned to WorkSafeNB and the unique power of WCAT needs to be curtailed. The only task force recommendation that RCC does not support is the one to eliminate 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. RCC and all members of the Coalition will be advocating for these changes during the election campaign. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  jcormier@retailcouncil.org or (902) 422-4144

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