Most provincial worker’s compensation rates remain unchanged for 2009

While the value and price of everything around us either climbs or plummets, average workers’ compensation premium rates employers in many provinces, such as Alberta, BC, and Ontario, will remain unchanged. Employers in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan will actually see their rates drop slightly.

WCB-Alberta notes that it has not been sheltered from the uncertainties of investments, but the lower value of WCB’s investment portfolio has not translated into a financial impact on employers due to a strong funding position and a number of investment risk mitigation strategies. Alberta legislation requires the organization to be 100 per cent funded at all times. WCB’s own policies require a minimum funding level of 114 per cent and the organization expects to end the year at that level. The drop in overall funding reflects the reduced value of WCB-Alberta’s investment portfolio and a $348 million dividend paid to employers earlier in the year.

Other key business drivers for the organization’s performance include the following forecasts for 2009:
  • The average number of days a worker remains off the job will hold steady at 32.7 days – an all time low in Alberta
  • The lost-time claim rate is predicted to remain at 1.7 per 100 workers
  • The number of workers covered in the province will grow to 1.92 million
  • The disabling injury rate is expected to drop slightly to 3.3 per 100 workers

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British Columbia
The average rate in B.C. holds steady at $1.56 per $100 of assessable payroll in 2009 ― the same as 2008 and the lowest rate in 30 years, down from a peak of $2.29 in 1996.

For 2009, 40 per cent of B.C. employers will see their base rates go up or down by 5 cents or less per $100 of assessable worker payroll; while 24 per cent will see their base rates decrease by more than 5 cents; 29 per cent will see their base rates increase between 6 and 25 cents; and 7 per cent will see increases of more than 25 cents.

Further information regarding the 2009 rates is available on WorkSafeBC’s web site at WorkSafeBC has also met with industry representatives to discuss the rates, to ensure employers have an opportunity to prepare budgets, consult with WorkSafeBC, and anticipate their costs for the coming year.

Manitoba employers will pay an average of $1.60 per $100.00 of their assessable payroll to the WCB for injury insurance coverage, including wage loss payments, medical benefits and rehabilitation services. That rate may be higher or lower, depending on the employer’s injury experience and the safety and health risk of their industry.

Overall, about 42 per cent of employers will experience lower WCB premium rates in 2009.
The gradual increase in the maximum assessable earnings cap also continues, with the 2009 ceiling set at $83,000.

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The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) announced that 2009 average premium rate for Schedule 1 employers will remain the same as the 2008 rate, at $2.26. The decision, says the board, is based on careful financial analysis, and an expectation that improvements will occur in health and safety and return to work outcomes consistent with the WSIB’s Road to Zero and Prevention Strategies.

Reaching and surpassing targets set out in the WSIB’s Five Year Strategic Plan 2008-2012, The Road to Zero, will ultimately result in the reduction of the unfunded liability and more stable and predictable premium rates for employers. Based on the average rate, the WSIB has calculated 2009 premium rates for all employer rate groups. These have been posted on the WSIB website. The WSIB maximum insurable earnings ceiling for 2009 is $74,600. The final maximum insurable earnings ceiling was set based on the April preliminary average weekly earnings aggregate, which was published by Statistics Canada.

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Ontario is also increasing injured worker benefits for third time in 18 months -- by two-and-a-half per cent as of January 1, 2009.

This increase is in addition to the two-and-a-half per cent increases made on July 1, 2007 and January 1, 2008, respectively. These increases apply to Ontario workers who are permanently, partially disabled.

Before the 2007 Ontario Budget, injured workers saw benefits increase by less than three per cent over the previous 12 years. Cumulatively, as of January 1, 2009, the benefits will have increased by seven-and-a-half per cent over a period of 18 months. The benefit increase will apply to more than 150,000 injured workers in Ontario

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WorkSafeNB -- new name, new structure, same premium rates
Proposed legislative changes to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission were recently introduced by N.B. Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault. The amendments are designed to improve the structure of the commission's successor agency, WorkSafeNB.

The changes include:

  • Establishing a new board position of vice-chair to provide more consistent support to the board and provide more human resource support to the chair;
  • Extending the term of appointments for worker and employer representatives to four years from three, allowing for further engagement in the broad range and depth of technical understanding required by board members. This will help ensure that the proper knowledge base is maintained despite the turnover of members;
  • Increasing the number of board members representing workers and employers to a minimum of four each from three. An increased number of members would provide a greater diversity on the board and support its growing mandate.
  • Increasing flexibility for appointments so that, when a person is appointed to fill a partial term, that individual will still be eligible to serve two full terms.

The changes stem from an independent panel report containing 64 recommendations directed to WorkSafeNB and the government. WorkSafeNB has supported these changes and has worked to move them forward.

"The amendments will respond to four of the panel's recommendations," said Arseneault. "These changes are key to the functioning of the board of directors and will help to facilitate WorkSafeNB's operations, which will, in turn, enable the agency to proceed with additional changes in the coming months."

WorkSafeNB is responsible for the administration of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission Act, the Workers' Compensation Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and corresponding regulations.

WorkSafeNB announced a slight decrease in the average assessment rate for the fourth consecutive year. Reduced accident frequency and accident costs warranted an average rate reduction of $0.02, from $2.05 per $100 of payroll in 2008, to $2.03 in 2009. The minimum assessment rate will also be reduced, from $0.40 per $100 of payroll to $0.35. The rates are effective January 1, 2009.

The rate reduction will see assessed premium amounts for approximately 7,300 employers either drop or remain stable in 2009, and represents the lowest average assessment rate in Atlantic Canada.

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Nfld. base assessment rate unchanged for 2009
The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission is maintaining its average base assessment rate for employers at $2.75 for 2009. The average base rate is the rate paid by employers to cover the anticipated claims costs and the cost of administering the workers’ compensation system. Assessment rates are based on the industry group in which an employer is classified and the cost experience of the group.

In 2000, the Commission’s base rate of $3.24 was 60 per cent higher than the Atlantic average.  The commission’s current base rate of $2.75, results in a difference now of only 21 per cent.   

The commission also announced that it is adjusting the Maximum Assessable and Compensable Earnings for 2009 by 2.2 per cent, increasing the limit from $49,295 to $50,379.   

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N.S. surcharged employers in 2008, 2009
The average rate of $2.65 per $100 of assessable payroll remains unchanged in Nova Scotia.

Fifty-one per cent of Nova Scotia employers overall will see a rate reduction. Industry rates are headed down in electronics manufacturing, mining, and several sectors of construction, among others. For 48 per cent of employers overall, rates are increasing due to the incredible cost workplace injury continues to take in Nova Scotia. Industry rates in several industries, including second-hand retail, feed manufacturing, and security and investigations, are increasing. The remaining one percent of employers will see no rate change.

However, Nova Scotia employers pay among the highest rates for workplace injury insurance in Canada. This is a direct result of the high number of workplace injuries and the length of time injured employees are off work, says the province’s Workers’ Compensation Board.

The Safety Incentive Program (surcharge program) recognizes that the cost of workplace injury insurance in Nova Scotia is driven, in large part, by the claims cost experience of a relatively small number of workplaces.  By applying a surcharge to the rate of these firms, the WCB is encouraging these employers to make necessary improvements in their safety performance.
A surcharge is applied to a firm that consistently has an experience ratio (claims cost to payroll) that is at least 200 per cent greater than their rate group. Less than 1 per cent of the 18,000 employers covered by the WCB are issued surcharges.

In 2009, 71 employers will be surcharged – down from 77 in 2008.

Encouragingly, more than half of employers who were surcharged in 2008 have improved their safety and return-to-work experience sufficiently to avoid a surcharge in 2009. Of the 71 that will be surcharged in 2009, 38 are being surcharged for a second consecutive year and 33 are being surcharged for the first time.

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Saskatchewan approves a reduction in 2009 rate
The Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) announced it will reduce the 2009 average premium rate by 1.8 per cent to $1.66. The announcement is the result of continuing reductions in the provincial workplace injury rate and is the fourth rate reduction to the average premium in the past five years.

The 2009 rate decision means that approximately 67 per cent of the more than 35,000 employers registered with the WCB will pay lower premiums or see no change in premiums next year. Another 28 per cent of registered employers will see a modest increase and the remaining 5 per cent will see higher increases based on industry experience and their individual claims experience.

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