WCB provides premium relief to support economic recovery
On Oct. 28, the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) announced there will be a board level hold on the 2021 average employer premium rate. Because of the economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the WCB is proposing to hold its 2021 preliminary average premium rate at $1.17 per hundred dollars of payroll – the same rate as 2020. The announcement was made Oct. 28 at the WCB’s annual preliminary rate information meeting teleconference with Saskatchewan employers, workers and stakeholders.
“The two key drivers of the premium rate are claims costs and payroll. Claims costs are historically on the rise and, due to COVID-19 in 2020, payroll is down in Saskatchewan, similar to most other provinces,” said the WCB’s CEO Phil Germain. “With certain industries, employers and workers dealing with the financial stress associated with COVID-19, the board has looked at how to help employers manage the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and keep this economy moving forward. To do this, we are proposing to hold the 2021 average rate.”
Under the WCB’s rate model, the WCB calculated the 2021 average preliminary required rate to be $1.23 per hundred dollars of payroll without the board level hold. The increase is partially because of the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19 and an increase in compensation and health-care costs. Given the level of uncertainty surrounding the future of the pandemic, the WCB is proposing a hold for 2021 and won’t pass those costs onto employers. By holding the rate at $1.17, the WCB will save employers approximately $13.4 million in 2021 premiums. The premiums collected are not expected to cover estimated costs in 2021, which will result in a loss from operations and reduce the Injury Fund.
“The 2021 hold on the average premium rate is temporary and employers should expect rate increases in the future, as early as 2022,” said Germain. “Projecting payroll and costs for 2021 was challenging. The forecasting process developed post-pandemic projections based on pre-pandemic experiences. The board is financially sound to absorb the cost increases in 2021, but cannot continue this practice in future years.”
With the 2021 rate proposal:
• The WCB is proposing to limit the increases and decreases in industry rates to no more than 10 per cent. These measures are proposed as a way to limit the negative economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Actual industry premium rates for approximately 29 per cent of Saskatchewan’s employers will increase next year.
• Actual industry premium rates for approximately 71 per cent of Saskatchewan’s employers covered by the WCB will see a decrease or no change for 2021.
• The overall 2021 proposed average employer rate will be held at $1.17 per hundred dollars of payroll.
Despite the impacts, there are ways employers can influence their premium rates. With a fully functioning safety program and a solid return-to-work program, employers can help prevent and manage work-related injuries. Industry premium rates are also affected by the degree to which employers in an industry work to eliminate workplace injuries. In 2019, serious injuries accounted for 12 per cent of total injuries but more than 80 per cent of compensation costs. Learn more about WorkSafe’s Fatalities and Serious Injuries Strategy at www.worksafesask.ca.
In 2019, for the fourth year in a row, 88 per cent of employers in Saskatchewan recorded zero injuries and zero fatalities in their workplaces.
“This is a huge success and a testament to the safety efforts accomplished in our province. Thank you for all of your health and safety efforts,” said the WCB’s chair Gord Dobrowolsky. “Despite these advances, we need to remain vigilant to keep all workers safe on the job.”
Transition to paperless system for 2021 premium rates
This year, the Saskatchewan WCB is moving to a paperless environment to announce the 2021 premium rates for employers. To make it easier for employers, starting Dec. 7, 2020, employers can log into their secure WCB online account to view their 2021 industry rate, including their experience rating and certificate, if eligible. Employers who don’t have a secure WCB online account can sign up for one today at www.wcbsask.com.
“By moving this information online, employers get their information quicker and it helps protect their privacy,” said Germain. “Environmentally, this is a more sustainable approach to significantly reduce the amount of paper printed and mailed. Less printed paper also helps to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 because it’s one less common touch point.”
Carolyn Van der Veen
Director, Communications, WCB