Newfoundland and Labrador give small employers WCB relief

Premiums can now be paid monthly instead of one lump sum for businesses paying less than $54,000

Newfoundland and Labrador’s workers’ compensation board is changing the way small businesses pay premiums.

Starting April 1, businesses paying less than $54,000 in annual WCB assessments will be able to pay the annual assessments throughout the year rather than being forced to pay it in one lump sum at the start, according to Joan Burke, minister responsible for the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission and Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

These employers will be able to pay their current year’s assessments monthly through electronic funds transfer over seven months (April to October) interest free. Currently, assessments for the year are payable on April 1. Any late assessment payments are subject to an interest penalty equal to the commission’s prime interest rate plus five per cent (currently 9.25%).

“We have worked with the commission to put forward a new payment option as a first step in addressing the payment concerns for small businesses,” said Burke. She said the move is an interim measure as a major overhaul of the current assessment reporting and payment system is in the works for January 2007.

“The commission will undertake consultations with employers on how they want to report on and pay their assessments in the long-term. The objective will be to ensure that the final system designed fully meets the needs of all employers,” she said.

Restaurant owners applaud the move

“In the past, operators have been forced to pay their assessments at the beginning of the year, based on estimated annual payroll costs,” said Luc Erjavec, vice-president, Atlantic Canada for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA). “This creates a tremendous hardship for small businesses, who are forced to pay premiums long before hours are worked or any revenue is earned. Those who are unable to pay the fees up front are hit with interest penalties equal to the WCB’s prime interest rate plus five per cent. For many operators, that’s a further 9.25 per cent punishment on a fee they are already struggling to afford.”

The CRFA said it welcomed the move as a “significant first step” towards what it called long overdue reforms to the assessment collection system at the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission.

It said the province’s $452 million restaurant and foodservice industry is one of the province’s largest employers, providing 13,200 jobs.

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