Businesses in Alberta and Ontario that prioritize workplace health and safety can expect to receive financial benefits soon.
Recently, Ontario and Alberta announced changes that’ll provide financial relief to businesses, including changes that’ll benefit those businesses that do an exceptional job of upholding workplace health and safety.
British Columbia, too, has had several financial relief measures in place for employers. But they focus largely on increased employment initiatives and training.
On October 6, 2021, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development announced a number of changes intended to save employers money. These funds can then be reinvested in new jobs, technology and health and safety protections. The four major changes largely affect the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) system in the province. These are:
- The WSIB is cutting premium rates next year (2022) by $168 million. This cut in premiums will benefit more than 300,000 workplaces in Ontario covered by WSIB. The savings equate to an average of 5% per employer and will allow businesses to allocate more money internally following the pandemic.
- The Ontario government intends to introduce legislation later this fall that, if passed, will allow for a large portion of the WSIB’s reserve (currently valued at $6.1 billion) to be reallocated to safe employers. The legislation will require the WSIB to return excess funds to employers once the surplus reaches 125% and will allow the WSIB to distribute the surplus when the fund reaches 115%. As of March 31, 2021, the WSIB’s fund is at 119%, with every percentage point valued at an estimated $305 million.
- The government is also proposing to enable the WSIB to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to streamline remittances for businesses. This would save businesses time and money by providing a one-stop-shop for submitting payroll deductions.
- Closures in low-wage sectors (due to COVID-19) have resulted in a spike in Ontario’s Average Industrial Wage. As a result, the ceiling for workers benefits will increase by 9.45%. This would result in some businesses paying thousands a year in additional premiums. To prevent this, Ontario is capping the growth of premiums to an increase of 3.2% through a new regulation under the Workplace Safety and Amendment Act.
The government of Alberta is helping offset costs for employers who have chosen to promote health and safety by implementing the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) at their business. The two ways the government is providing financial relief to these employers are:
- REP Implementation Grant: Alberta will soon be offering a one-time payment of $2,000 to small to mid-sized businesses that are eligible for and choose to implement the REP. Applications are anticipated to open in the next 4 to 6 weeks. Guidance on where and how to apply will be shared once more details are finalized. Businesses that receive this grant can use the funding in whichever way they see fit.
- REP Training Grant: An additional $1 million will also be available for training to support the safety of workers when implementing the REP. This grant can be used by businesses to develop or procure training to help workers assess and manage challenging situations that may arise during their daily work.
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