Background

New Brunswick Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC)

General

The WHSCC 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.

The affairs of the WHSCC are administered by a Board of Directors, comprising a part-time Chairperson, full-time President and Chief Executive Officer, full-time Chairperson of the Appeals Tribunal, one part-time member representing the interests of the general public, and a minimum of six additional part-time members, equally representative of workers and employers.

The responsibilities of the Board of Directors span several areas. Board members are mandated to advance the principle that every worker is entitled to a safe and healthy work environment; promote an understanding of, acceptance of, and compliance with the laws relating to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, and develop and conduct educational programs.

By legislation ( WHSCC Act , s.7) the WHSCC Board has the specific responsibility to:

(a)

Undertake research on matters related to workers' health, safety and compensation;

(b)

Advise the Minister on developments in the field of workers' health, safety and compensation principles in other jurisdictions;

(c)

Propose legislation, policies and practices to promote workers' health, safety and compensation; and,

(d)

Recommend changes in this Act, the Workers' Compensation Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the regulations, in order to promote better service by the commission.

The WHSCC administers no-fault workplace accident and disability insurance for employers and workers, funded solely through assessments on employers. In providing this insurance coverage, the WHSCC is required by legislation to maintain a fully-funded program, so benefits promised to injured workers are secure going into the future.

Recent History of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation, including legislative change

In the 1970s and 80s, all Canadian Workers' Compensation systems and most in the United States underwent a fundamental change from awarding benefits according to a schedule for the loss of a body part or function, to a wage-loss insurance system.

It was a difficult transition, primarily due to the complexity of projecting appropriate assessment levels for employers. Most jurisdictions seriously underestimated the cost of benefits and slipped into an unfunded position very quickly. New Brunswick was no exception. The New Brunswick wage-loss system was introduced in 1982 and by 1985 the system had an unfunded liability of $50 million. In 1990, the projected unfunded liability for 1992 was in excess of $100 million.

To address this crisis, a joint labour-management committee was established to make recommendations on how to save the system from inevitable collapse. The underlying principal of the reforms proposed by the committee was that an injured worker should not receive more earnings while on claim, than while working.

In summary, the 1993 reforms included:

  • Reducing wage recovery from 90% of average net earnings, to 80%;
  • Disallowing employers to “top up” compensation benefits; and,
  • Introducing a three-day waiting period for benefits (reimbursable after 30 days on claim)

In 1996, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission established a second joint committee, comprising labour and management representatives, to “examine the service benefits and assessment issues facing the Commission as it approaches fiscal stability .” After meeting with interested groups throughout the province, the Committee made recommendations to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission with respect to “strategic solutions and direction.”

In summary, the 1998 reforms included:

  • Increasing wage recovery from 80% of average net earnings, to 85%;
  • Removing the three-day wait when an injured worker is hospitalized and where the injury is recurrent; and,
  • Reimbursing the three-day wait after 20 days on claim, rather than 30.

Since 2003, additional changes to the Workers' Compensation Act have been implemented, including:

  • Expansion of “right to refuse” unsafe work;
  • Updated first aid requirements at workplaces, and
  • Mandatory training for members of joint health and safety committees.

Conclusion 

Recognizing the 25 years of ongoing reform to the New Brunswick workers' compensation system, and reforms brought forward to compensation systems across Canada and internationally, the government has called for an independent and comprehensive review of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation System by a three-member panel. The Review Panel will determine how well the current system compares to the workers' compensation systems across Canada and identify key considerations for the future.


Independent Review Panel
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