Employers in Newfoundland and Labrador will be paying a little less for worker’s compensation coverage in 2018 after WorkplaceNL decreased its average assessment rate last week by 7.8 per cent.
Effective Jan. 1, the rate will be lowered from $2.06 to $1.90 per $100 of payroll. The rates are which are premiums paid by the employer to cover expected costs of workplace injuries, return-to-work and prevention programs, and administering the system.
In addition, the maximum compensable and assessable earnings (MCAE) will increase to $64,375, an increase of nearly $1,000.
WorkplaceNL says while the average rates in all 18 sectors will fall, the largest decreases are in agriculture (11 per cent), manufacturing (10 per cent), and transportation and storage (10 per cent).
In a press release from WorkplaceNL, CEO Dennis Hogan says the lower assessment rates are due the injury fund sitting comfortably at 126.1 per cent and lower claims costs stemming from an all-time low lost-time injury rate of 1.5 per 100 workers.
“Fewer claims from injured workers typically means lower costs for employers and more people going home safety at the end of their work day,” Hogan stated. “We continue to work closely with employers, workers, labour groups and safety associations to evolve our province’s safety culture while maintain a financially sustainable workers’ compensation system.”
The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, meanwhile, are “outraged” at WorkplaceNL’s decision and suggest that injured workers are being victimized by the system.
“For five straight years now we have seen employers’ fees reduced substantially, meanwhile injured workers continue to suffer with reduced benefits despite the fact that they have been shouldering a greater portion of that deficit since then,” NLFL president Mary Shortall stated in a release.
“Despite a healthy injury fund that is 126 per cent funded, our compensation rates remain the lowest in Canada.”
The NLFL is calling on government to increase the percentage of earnings benefits for injured workers to 85 per cent as was recommended in a 2013 statutory review.
There are six Canadian jurisdictions that provide 90 per cent of net earnings to workers’ compensation claimants, and two at 85. Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest income replacement rate at 80 per cent.
Shortall says WorkplaceNL is more concerned with managing claims and lowering rates for employers than it is with workers’ well being and that the Liberal government is complicit in this behaviour.
“This corporate culture is being supported by the Liberal government in their failure to respond to the need to increase workers’ benefits.”