Injured workers in NB get more financial help


New Brunswickers who get injured at work will soon get more money to help make ends meet.

The Progressive Conservative government has introduced changes to the Workers' Compensation Act and the Firefighters' Compensation Act that would provide more financial help to injured workers.

The more generous payouts should be so modest that they do not burden the large compensation fund – a dire consequence that would force employers to pay in more money.

This is the largest performance increase in the province in over 30 years, since 1992.

“This is great for workers and great for their families,” Greg Turner, the minister responsible for labor, told reporters in Parliament on Tuesday. “The workers’ association has really done its homework on this. Over the years our government has succeeded in reducing the tax rate for employers and now we are in a position to make a difference for employees too.”

Once passed, from July 1st, wage loss compensation for all injured and sick employees will be increased from 85 to 90 percent of net earnings, providing greater financial security during recovery.

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

In addition, changes have been introduced to refine how WorkSafeNB, also known by its old nickname “workers'comp”, calculates maximum annual earnings.

Maximum annual earnings represent the highest earnings per employee on which an employer would pay premiums and serve as a cap for calculating workers' compensation benefits. The change means more injured workers will receive their full pay, with maximum annual earnings set to rise from $76,900 to $82,100.

Injured workers who are already receiving benefits will automatically receive the increase and will not be required to take any action.

The Crown corporation that protects injured workers has undergone a monumental transformation in recent years, going from one of the worst to one of the best in the industry.

Last October, it was announced that the average rate employers must pay in 2024 was set at $1.18 per $100 of assessed payroll, up from $1.31 in 2023. That means an average savings of 10 percent for businesses and other employers.

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

Just a few years earlier, companies had complained that their labor costs had skyrocketed.

Interest rates in New Brunswick have fallen for five consecutive years, from a high of $2.65 in 2019 to $1.18 in 2024, a 55 percent decline.

Tim Petersen, the organization's CEO, said in an interview on Wednesday that companies and worker groups were consulted in the summer and fall of 2022 before drafting the proposed changes and submitting them to the Tory government.

“It’s about balance,” said the managing director. “If the pendulum swings too far in one direction or the other, problems arise. Because our finances are in such good shape, it made sense to increase employee benefits. We are confident we got it right.”

He noted that WorkSafeNB had achieved a funding position of 156 percent of its large compensation fund needs, well above its funding target of 125 percent.

This is the best shape the fund has 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 by providing the benefits our injured workers and their families deserve,” said Mel Norton, WorkSafeNB’s chief executive officer , release in one.

John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Gleaner