News in Brief

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

Alberta panel reviewing WCB

› EDMONTON — The Alberta government has appointed a three-member panel to review the province’s workers’ compensation system.

The panel, which includes employer and worker representatives, will examine a number of issues affecting the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). They include the board’s governance and effectiveness, its policies and how transparent it makes its processes and decision-making, as well as the principles it uses to compensate injured workers.

For the review, the panel will gather information from employers, injured workers, WCB partners and the general public. The government says it expects the panel to provide a progress update later this year and a final report next spring.

Alberta investigating possible MEP privacy breach

› EDMONTON — The Alberta government is looking into a possible privacy breach of client data at its Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP).

The MEP collects court-ordered child support, spousal and partner support. It can issue support deduction notices to employers, requiring them to deduct a certain amount from an employee’s earnings and remit it to the MEP.

Kathleen Ganley, justice minister and the province’s solicitor general, said her department and the Edmonton police are investigating whether an MEP employee accessed MEP files without authorization. She added that the employee no longer has access to MEP client information. Media reports suggest that the privacy breach may affect up to 60 files.

"I have directed my department to contact MEP clients who may be impacted by this potential breach. As the police investigation progresses, people whose information may be at risk will also be contacted by police," Ganley said in a news release.

"I have also directed my department to complete a thorough investigation into the operating procedures to determine how, and to what extent, government records may have been inappropriately accessed — and, importantly, what could be done to prevent this from happening again," she added.

Average weekly earnings down in January: StatsCan

› OTTAWA — Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $953 in January, down from $960 in December, Statistics Canada reports. December numbers were revised from the previously reported $959.

On a year-over-year basis, weekly earnings increased 0.4 per cent in January. The increase in weekly earnings 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 32.9 hours a week in January, down from the 33.3 hours reported for December.

Year-over-year earnings of non-farm payroll employees increased in January in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. They declined in Alberta and were little changed in British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan.

Unemployment rate 7.1 per cent in March: StatsCan

› OTTAWA — Canada’s economy gained about 41,000 jobs in March, lowering the country’s unemployment rate from 7.3 per cent to 7.1 per cent, Statistics Canada reports.

Industries where employment increased included health and social assistance, accommodation and food services, as well as in professional, scientific and technical services. Employment was down in manufacturing, construction and public administration.

On a provincial basis, Newfoundland and Labrador continued to have the highest unemployment rate at 13.1 per cent, but it was down from 14.1 per cent in February.

The unemployment rate also went down in Alberta (from 7.9 per cent to 7.1 per cent), British Columbia (from 6.6 per cent to 6.5 per cent) and Quebec (from 7.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent). The unemployment rate went up in New Brunswick (from 9.9 per cent to 10.2 per cent) and Saskatchewan (from 5.9 per cent to 6.2 per cent). The rate remained steady in Manitoba (six per cent), Nova Scotia (9.1 per cent), Ontario (6.8 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (11 per cent).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the American economy added 215,000 jobs in March, but the unemployment rate rose slightly from 4.9 per cent to five per cent.

Minimum wage to rise to US$15 in 2 U.S. states

› UNITED STATES — The governors of California and New York have approved bills that will eventually see minimum wage rates in those states reach $15 (all dollars US) an hour. Last month, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed into law legislation that will gradually increase the state’s minimum wage from $10 an hour to $15 over the next several years. The rate will rise to $10.50 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017, for businesses with 26 or more employees. It will then go up each year until it reaches $15 in 2022. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees will have an extra year to implement the hikes.

The New York bill, which Governor Andrew M. Cuomo approved in early April, will phase in a $15-an-hour minimum wage for the state over a number of years. Workers in New York City will be the first to reach $15.

Under the bill, the general minimum wage rate for businesses in New York City that employ at least 11 workers will rise from $9 an hour to $11 at the end of 2016. The minimum wage rate will then go up by $2 an hour each year afterwards until it reaches $15 on Dec. 31, 2018.

For businesses in New York City that have 10 or fewer employees, the general minimum wage rate will increase to $10.50 by the end of 2016. It will then rise by $1.50 an hour each year until it reaches $15 on Dec. 31, 2019.

For workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties in New York, the minimum wage will increase to $10 at the end of 2016. It will then go up by $1 each year until it gets to $15 on Dec. 31, 2021. For workers in the rest of the state, the minimum wage will increase to $9.70 at the end of the year. It will rise 70 cents a year in the following years until it reaches $12.50 at the end of 2020. Afterwards, it will continue to increase to $15 an hour on an indexed schedule that the government will determine.

 Legislation in both states allows the government to temporarily suspend minimum wage hikes if economic circumstances require it.

New York to require paid family leave

› ALBANY, NY — The governor of New York recently signed legislation that will allow eligible employees in the state to take up to 12 weeks off work, with pay, for a new family leave.

The leave, which will be phased in between 2018 and 2021, will allow employees to take time off work to care for an infant, a family member with a serious health condition or to relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. In 2018, eligible employees will be able to take eight weeks off work. The number of weeks will gradually rise until it reaches 12 in 2021.

Paid-leave benefits will also be phased in. In 2018, employees on leave will receive about 50 per cent of their weekly pay, to a maximum of 50 per cent of the state’s average weekly wage. In 2021 when the plan is fully implemented, employees on leave will receive about two-thirds of their weekly pay, up to a maximum of two-thirds of the state’s average weekly wage.

Employers will not be responsible for funding the leave. Instead, employees will pay for it through payroll deductions, starting at approximately 70 cents per week and rising to about $1.40 in 2021.

Employees will be eligible if they have worked for their employer for at least six months.

Latest stories