News in brief

A look at news, facts and figures shaping the world of payroll professionals

Maximum insurable earnings going up, EI premiums for small business going down

› GATINEAU, QUEBEC — The maximum insurable earnings for Employment Insurable (EI) will increase to $49,500 from $48,600 in 2015, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission has announced.

EI premium rates for employees outside of Quebec will remain $1.88 per $100 of insurable earnings for 2015 and 2016. As a result, the maximum employee premium will be $930.60 in 2015. For employees in Quebec, the rate will rise to $1.54 from $1.53, resulting in a maximum employee premium of $762.30 in 2015. The rate for Quebec differs because of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP).

Employers, other than those with small businesses, will continue to pay 1.4 times the employee rate unless Service Canada has approved them for a reduced EI rate. Small businesses will see their premium rate go down in 2015 and 2016 with the introduction of a new EI tax credit, which federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver recently announced. Oliver says businesses whose employer EI premiums are no more than $15,000 in 2015 and 2016 will be eligible for the Small Business Job Credit. The credit will be calculated as the difference between premiums paid at the legislated rate of $1.88 per $100 of insurable earnings and a reduced rate of $1.60 in 2015 and 2016.

He says the tax credit would essentially reduce employer EI premiums from $2.632 to $2.24 per $100 of insurable earnings for small employers. The ministry says the 39-cent premium reduction will apply in addition to the premium reduction related to the QPIP. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will automatically calculate the credit on a business’ tax return for eligible employers. Once calculated, the CRA will apply the credit against any outstanding amounts the business owes the CRA and will then refund the remaining amount, if any, to the employer.

Oliver says all employees and employers will see lower EI rates in 2017 when the government implements a new mechanism for setting EI rates. Government documents estimate that the new rate-setting mechanism will result in an EI premium rate of $1.47 per $100 of insurable earnings in 2017 and 2018. Future rate increases or reductions would be limited to five cents.

Deadline approaching for Scotiabank settlement

› TORONTO — Members of a class action lawsuit involving unpaid overtime at the Bank of Nova Scotia have until Oct. 15 to make their claims.

In a settlement approved by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, current and former employees of the bank who are members of the class action can claim for unpaid overtime from Aug. 12 to back as far as 13 years, depending on the limitation period in the province or territory where they did the work. The lawsuit, Fulawka v. The Bank of Nova Scotia, began almost seven years ago.

Under the terms of the settlement, the bank will review each claim and pay for overtime required or permitted whether or not a manager or supervisor approved it. Individuals can claim overtime even if they do not have documentation to show they worked it. If Scotiabank rejects a claim, the individual can appeal it to an independent arbitrator.

As part of the agreement, Scotiabank will ensure no one will face reprisals for making a claim. In addition, the bank will pay the legal fees.

WCB FlexPay system in place

› WINNIPEG — The Manitoba Workers Compensation Board (WCB) is moving its final group of employers to a new payroll reporting and payment system called FlexPay.

The board began implementing FlexPay about a year ago, starting with employers who previously paid quarterly, followed by employers with annual premiums exceeding $5,000. This fall, employers with annual workers’ compensation premiums of up to $5,000 are choosing their preferred way to pay premiums to the board.

The WCB says FlexPay offers more ways for employers to pay premiums and allows for greater flexibility in payment schedules.

Employers can also choose to pay by cash, cheque, credit card, debit card, pre-authorized credit or debit payments and online, by telephone or in person at most financial institutions.

The FlexPay system will also allow employers to report their annual payroll online to the WCB if they choose. Beginning in 2015, this option will be available to all employers. This year, the board allowed online reporting only for employers with annual premiums exceeding $5,000 and those who previously reported their actual payroll quarterly. Online reporting is only an option and employers can still choose to complete an Annual Payroll Form to report their payroll.

Average weekly earnings up in June: StatsCan

› OTTAWA — Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $940.48 in June, up 0.6 per cent from $935.05 in May, Statistics Canada reports. The May numbers were revised from the previously reported $937. On a year-over-year basis, they increased 3.3 per cent in June.

The increase during the 12 months to June reflected a number of factors, including wage growth, changes in the composition of employment by industry, occupation and level of job experience, as well as average hours worked per week. Non-farm payroll employees worked an average of 33 hours a week in June, which is only slightly changed from the average of 32.9 hours 12 months earlier.

Year-over-year earnings of non-farm payroll employees increased in all provinces, with the biggest growth in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Manitoba. The smallest growth occurred in Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

Growing number of workers concerned about finances: Survey

› TORONTO — More employed Canadians are living pay cheque to pay cheque, saving less and falling further behind in meeting their retirement goals, says a new survey by The Canadian Payroll Association (CPA).

The survey of 3,211 employees from a wide variety of industries found that 51 per cent say it would be difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay cheque was delayed by a week. The CPA says this is up from an average of 49 per cent over the past three years. Half say they are putting away no more than five per cent of their pay for savings. The CPA says financial planning experts generally recommend a retirement savings rate of 10 per cent of net pay.

The survey also found 44 per cent of employees are spending all of, or more than, their net pay, with most of it going toward children, home renovations and education.

In all, 79 per cent of those surveyed say they expect to delay retirement until they are at least 60 years old, up from 70 per cent over the past three years. The survey found the main reason for the delay is the inability to save enough. A full 75 per cent say they have put aside less than a quarter of what they will need in retirement.

More than one-third of workers surveyed say they feel overwhelmed by their level of debt, with 12 per cent indicating they do not think they will ever be debt free.

Employers need to focus on more than pay increases: Survey

› TORONTO — Employers need to focus on more than pay increases to retain staff, says a recent survey from professional services firm Towers Watson.

The company’s 2014 Global Workforce Study found 25 per cent of Canadian employees are likely to leave their employer in the next two years. Just over one-third of employees believe their employer provides opportunities for career advancement and 40 per cent feel they need to join another organization to advance their career.

"According to our research, while employers recognize the importance of salary to employees, they are not placing enough importance on the entire employment deal which includes non-monetary aspects like career advancement, confidence in senior leader ship and job security — all top drivers of attraction and retention," said Sandra McLellan, leader of Towers Watson’s Rewards, Talent and Communication practice in Toronto.

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