Workers’ compensation boards have $6.8 billion more employer money than needed: CFIB

AS of 2016, eight out of 12 workers’ compensation boards in Canada are overfunded, depriving employers of billions of dollars that could otherwise be used to invest in their businesses, create jobs and improve wages and worker safety, finds a new report released today by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The report finds that in absolute dollar terms WorkSafeBC is holding on to the largest stockpile of surplus money, clocking in at $3.8 billion more than necessary.

Laura Jones

“Boards are holding onto $6.8 billion in extra money. Typically, when you overpay your taxes, you get a refund. It’s time boards give that refund. There is no shortage of great ways it could be put to work in a business, including investing in staff,” said Laura Jones, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer at CFIB. “The bottom line is that overcharging employers is unfair, unproductive, and unnecessary.”

In Canada, workers’ compensation insurance is entirely funded through mandatory employer premiums and investment earnings. The funding position of a board is typically measured as the ratio between a board’s total assets and liabilities. The report recommends a funding ratio of between 100 per cent and 110 per cent, meaning a board in excess of 110 per cent is over-funded. A 10 per cent cushion is more than sufficient to protect against the premium volatility—five boards already target this range.

For boards that are overfunded, the funding ratio ranges from a low of 112 per cent in New Brunswick to a high of 159 per cent in Prince Edward Island. Seven of the 12 boards do have rebate policies in place. WorkSafeBC has no policy in place to refund money to the entrepreneurs who paid into it.

“While some might view the boards as being prudent, it’s important to remember that the source of funding for workers’ compensation comes solely from employers. It’s easy to be overly cautious with someone else’s money. So when a board has excess money, it’s only fair to return the extra funds to small business,” said Marvin Cruz, Senior Research Analyst and author of the report.

To bring overfunded positions back in line, the report recommends that boards issue surplus rebates directly to employers and / or lower premiums once the 110 per cent threshold is exceeded. For a business with five employees, the rebate would range from $500 in New Brunswick to $8,165 in British Columbia. While this would be a big boost to small business, even governments — who are also subject to workers’ compensation — would benefit from such a rebate.

“This is pretty straightforward policy. We aren’t asking governments to spend more money, just to give back the excess they’ve taken,” said Jones.

Richard Truscott, VP for BC and Alberta concluded: “The workers compensation system in BC is one of the most over-funded in the country. At a time when the province’s entrepreneurs are bracing for the impact of a $15 minimum wage, a boost to the provincial carbon tax, and growing federal EI and CPP payroll taxes, a WorkSafeBC refund would inject much needed resources back into smaller firms to help mitigate the impact of these other aggressive policy changes.”