16 November 2022
Tim Peterson, President and CEO
1 Portland St, Saint John, NB
Via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr Peterson
Re: Proposed WorkSafeNB Benefit Increases
I am writing today on behalf of the board of directors of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce regarding WorkSafeNB’s announcement last month to pursue proposed increases to worker’s compensation benefits.
I reiterate our recommendations from our consultation submission (June 2022):
- Delay implementing increased benefits until businesses in all sectors are able to sufficiently recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.
- Enhance return-to-work policies and procedures.
- Increase transparency in medical direction given to injured employees by having physicians and other medical practitioners play a more active role the process.
- Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and examine opportunities to provide a more balanced and representative system.
- Ex: Increase maximum insurable earnings for the purpose of calculating benefits for more severe injuries
- Ex: Calculate an employer’s assessment at a more granular level – by employee occupation rather than sector type.
- The Government of New Brunswick should join the WorkSafeNB pool of employers to improve sustainability.
Of course, our organization was pleased to see a further decrease in the average assessment rate planned for 2023 – the result of the hard work of employees, employers and WorkSafeNB staff / board – driven by the 2018 legislative amendments. We are concerned these gains in sustainability will only be temporary if decreasing rates are seen as an impetus to increase benefits – the rate is volatile from year-to-year, but benefits cannot reasonably fluctuate annually.
Furthermore, current benefit levels are on par with other Maritime provinces and the provinces are more broadly working on several fronts to align economic and social policy. New Brunswick should not look to actively become out-of-step with the other jurisdictions.
Costs also remain a major concern as many businesses are just beginning to recover from the effects of the pandemic and any increased financial burden will mitigate gains in economic growth. Changes to an important system like worker’s compensation do not happen in vacuum; it is important to examine the broader picture when considering the effects on employers. Parallel to these proposed changes to WorkSafeNB are a broken supply chain, a workforce crisis, the remnants of COVID-19 government support programs and the proposed expansion of the Employment Insurance system by the federal government – amongst other challenges for businesses.
At a minimum, increasing benefits should be coupled with enhanced enforcement and transparency of claims. One of the fundamental issues with the current worker’s compensation regime in New Brunswick is the lack of communication between the various parties. Other provinces have figured out ways to respect privacy rights while providing a more transparent system that results in employees getting healthy and returning to work sooner – what everyone wants. We can’t reasonably hope to improve our return-to-work rates (or the system itself) without better communication between employers, injured workers, medical practitioners and WorkSafeNB. A system built on transparency and communication will provide a foundation of sustainability.
CEO, Fredericton Chamber of Commerce