Workers’ Compensation Boards Have $6.8 Billion More Employer Money Than They Need

$1.9 billion should be refunded to AB employers, yet due to the NDP’s WCB review refunds may never be issued again

Calgary, November 1, 2017 – 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).

“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.

Seven of the 12 boards do have rebate policies in place, but these are triggered at the discretion of the board and are only exercised well beyond the 110 ratio.  In Alberta, refunds have been issued when the funded ratio exceeds 128 per cent.

A government appointed review panel issued a 189-page report with 60 recommendations to overhaul the system.  The most worrisome recommendation calls for an end to distributing surplus money from the Accident Fund to employers and establishing a new policy for the use of excess Accident Fund monies.

“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.  Scheming up new ways for government to spend employers’ money is bad for business and the wrong approach,” said Amber Ruddy, Alberta Director for CFIB.

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.

Funding position* of workers’ compensation boards, by province/territory, 2016 (%)

*Ratio of total assets over total liabilities

  1. Ontario’s funding level of 87.9 per cent is due to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s Unfunded Liability (UFL) of $4 billion (end of 2016). In 2011, the UFL had reached $14.2 billion. Since then, the WSIB has been systematically reducing the UFL and will eliminate it (i.e., achieve full funding) by 2020. This significant progress in reducing the UFL resulted in the first premium rate reductions in 15 years.

Source: Workers’ compensation boards.

“This is a pretty straightforward policy.  We are asking the Alberta government to give employer money back.  Small businesses with five employees can put a rebate of $5,000 to work right away,” concluded Ruddy. 

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.