Effective Jan. 1 the average assessment rate charged to employers by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) in Newfoundland and Labrador will be reduced by $0.25 to $2.20 per $100 of assessable payroll.
About 99.3 per cent of employers will see their 2016 assessment rate decrease or stay the same. The lower assessment rate coincides with record low injury rates, said the WHSCC.
The rate reduction is due to the removal of a $0.25 surcharge that employers pay to cover past unfunded liabilities in the workers’ compensation system. A surcharge has been in place since 1993. As of the end of 2014, the injury fund was $1.1 billion and over 112 per cent funded. This is the first time the funding target of 110 per cent has been exceeded, a major milestone in establishing the long-term stability of the injury fund for employers and workers in the province. Based on the stakeholder-agreed funding policy, the surcharge may now be removed.
Assessment rates are premiums paid by employers to cover anticipated costs of workplace injuries, return-to-work programs, prevention initiatives and the cost of administering the workers’ compensation system.
Employers will be notified of their specific rates, in writing, within two weeks. The $0.25 decrease in the assessment rate is an average. Individual employers will continue to have different assessment rates depending upon their industry and workplace injury experience.
“For more than a decade, employers and injured workers have been diligent in their efforts to improve workplace safety in Newfoundland and Labrador and the injury rate is the lowest it has ever been,” said Ralph Tucker, chair of the commission. “Through (labour and employer) progressive partnerships we are able to lower assessment rates and ensure injured workers receive fair benefits. More workers are returning home safely to their families, our ultimate goal.”
Effective Jan. 1 the maximum compensable and assessable earnings (MCAE) for injured workers will increase to $62,540, the highest in Atlantic Canada. This increase reflects a 1.5 per cent annual consumer price index (CPI) adjustment. Injured workers submitting a new claim whose pre-injury earnings are at or above $62,540 will be eligible to be compensated at this new limit.
“The board is committed to continuing its philosophy of using a balanced approached to consider the needs of both injured workers and employers, while also being financially responsible with the injury fund, now and into the future,” said Tucker.
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The WSIB, with JLT Canada and the Public Services Health and Safety Administration, held a discussion panel to explain the changes to the rate-setting framework.