OHS Canada Magazine

Injured workers in N.B. to receive more financial help


Avatar photo

May 16, 2024
By The Canadian Press

Workers Compensation

Greg Turner, New Brunswick’s minister responsible for labour, has introduced changes in the legislature that will increase benefits for injured workers.
John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

New Brunswickers who get injured on the job will soon get more money to help them get by.

The province’s Progressive Conservative government has introduced amendments to the Workers’Compensation Act and the Firefighters’Compensation Act that would give injured workers more financial help.

The more generous payouts are supposed to be modest enough that they won’t drain the big compensation fund, a dire consequence that would force employers to chip in more money.

It’s the biggest increase in benefits in the province in over 30 years, since 1992.

“This is great for the workers and great for their families,” Greg Turner, the minister responsible for labour, told reporters in the legislature on Tuesday. “Workers’ comp has really done their homework on this. Over the years, our government has been able to bring the rate down for employers and now we’re able to move the needle for employees as well.”

Advertisement

Once passed, starting July 1, wage loss benefits for all injured and sick workers will increase from 85 to 90 per cent of net earnings, providing increased financial security as they recover.

New Brunswick joins the majority of provinces and territories at the 90 per cent threshold – only Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Yukon pay less.

Additionally, amendments have been introduced to refine how WorkSafeNB, also known by the old moniker workers’ comp, calculates maximum annual earnings.

Maximum annual earnings represents the highest amount of earnings per worker that an employer would pay premiums on and serves as the upper limit for calculating a worker’s compensation benefits. The change means more injured workers will have their full wages covered, with the maximum annual earnings set to increase from $76,900 to $82,100.

Injured workers who are already receiving benefits will get the increase automatically and are not required to do anything.

The Crown corporation that protects injured workers has had a huge turnaround in recent years, going from one of the worst in the business to one of the best.

Last October, it announced that the 2024 average rate employers had to pay had been set at $1.18 per $100 of assessed payroll, down from $1.31 in 2023. That’s an average 10 per cent savings for businesses and other employers.

The new rate is the second lowest in the country and the lowest rate in Atlantic Canada.

Only a few years earlier, businesses had complained their payroll costs had skyrocketed.

Rates in New Brunswick have been going down five years in a row, from a high of $2.65 in 2019 to $1.18 in 2024, a 55 per cent drop.

Tim Petersen, the organization’s CEO, said in an interview Wednesday that businesses and workers groups were consulted in the summer and fall of 2022 before it came up with the proposed changes and presented them to the Tory government.

“It’s all about balance,” the executive said. “When the pendulum swings too far one way or the other, it creates issues. With our finances in such a good position, it made sense to increase workers’ benefits. We’re confident we’ve got it right.”

He noted that WorkSafeNB had reached a funding position of 156 per cent of what’s required in its large compensation fund, well above its funding target of 125 per cent.

This is the best shape the fund’s ever been in.

“We have carefully balanced the needs of our stakeholders with the sustainability of our system, first by establishing stable assessment rates for employers, and now providing the benefits our injured workers and their families deserve,” said Mel Norton, WorkSafeNB’s board chairperson, in a release.

Advertisement

Stories continue below