A message from our Acting Chairperson
Looking back on the last year, I am pleased to see the strides WorkSafeNB has made and the path we have chartered to move forward. It was a challenging year, with the continued rise in claims’ costs adding even more pressure on the system’s sustainability, and the announcement of another significant increase to the average assessment rate. We shared our challenges with you, and listened to yours. And through it all, this approach of transparent and proactive communication and collaboration allowed us to come out the other side stronger, with a clearer vision of the work we need to do to become the high performing, client-centred organization you deserve.
External reviews of WorkSafeNB, such as those carried out in 2018 by the Ministerial Task Force and the Auditor General of New Brunswick, are exceptional opportunities to get valuable feedback from individuals outside our organization, helping us identify areas where opportunities exist and improvements are needed.
Good governance is the cornerstone of any successful organization responsible for meeting client needs while ensuring sustainability. The Auditor General’s Report on WorkSafeNB’s governance model provided a clear improvement path forward for our board. In 2018, as a result of this report, we have further strengthened the board’s recruitment practices, our committee framework, and orientation for new members. We also continued to share board expenses and our meeting minutes on WorkSafeNB’s website as part of our commitment to being accountable and transparent to New Brunswick’s workers and employers.
The WorkSafeNB board of directors, supported by a strong leadership team, spent much of 2018 working with stakeholders and government pursuing the legislative changes outlined in the Task Force Report. On behalf of the board, I want to thank the Government of New Brunswick for acting swiftly to introduce and enact these amendments that benefit all New Brunswickers. As we implement the new legislation, these changes are providing our organization an opportunity to set a new direction to ensure that we are able to meet the evolving needs of our clients and those of our ever-changing system.
A big success of 2018 was securing our new president and CEO, Douglas Jones. In his short time at the helm, Mr. Jones’s open and frequent conversations with key stakeholders, staff, and the media has helped build a better understanding of the challenges we face. He has provided invaluable leadership on
how to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency as an organization, and his sound decision-making has been especially critical during this transition.
In addition to Mr. Jones, in the last year we welcomed two new valued board members, Mike MacMullin and Donna McNeill, as worker representatives. These new members bring with them a wealth of experience and a passion for injury prevention. I would like to thank our outgoing board members Maureen Wallace and Michèle Caron for their dedication and service. You will both be missed.
With new leadership and well-informed recommendations to guide us, it’s time to take what we’ve learned, recommit to the fundamentals, and dedicate 2019 to delivering increased value for you, our stakeholders. We look forward to the year ahead.
A message from our CEO and president
In early 2018, I was honoured to be appointed by the board of directors as the new president and chief executive officer of WorkSafeNB. Building safe and healthy workplaces has been a critical cornerstone in defining success throughout much of my career in both the private and public sectors. I have seen first-hand the tragic impacts of workplace injuries on workers, families, colleagues and communities. At the same time, I have also seen the many positive impacts of a strong workplace safety culture that are not often considered, such as enhanced levels of employee engagement and retention, an improvement in worker confidence and even improved levels of productivity. WorkSafeNB touches the lives of all New Brunswickers, directly or indirectly, every day of the year. I’m excited to have the opportunity to lead WorkSafeNB in helping to make workplaces across our province safer and to contribute to our province’s prosperity.
It is clear we have work to do. While New Brunswick has been among the safest of all provinces in terms of injury frequency for many years, the cost to provide benefits to injured workers has risen rapidly in recent years to become the highest of all provinces. The cost of workers’ compensation claims has doubled from $199 million in 2014, to $400 million in 2018. During this same period, future liabilities (the funds required to pay for all future claim costs related to a current year injury) also increased by $800 million. As a result of these skyrocketing costs, and lower than normal investment returns, the value of WorkSafeNB’s Accident Fund fell to 88% of the assets required to fully fund future liabilities. In late 2018, we announced that the assessment rate for 2019 would need to increase by a staggering 72% to meet these ever rising costs. Over the past three years, costs for employers on average have risen by 139%. To any employer, this kind of cost increase is extremely difficult to absorb and leads to very difficult business decisions.
But cost is only one side of the equation. Of critical importance is the primary focus on injury prevention and the benefits provided to any injured worker for rehabilitation and to compensate for any lost wages. Sadly, though the cost to New Brunswick employers was forecast to be the highest in the country, other provinces were demonstrating that better benefits for injured workers could be provided at lower costs. We are determined to see what we can learn from these other jurisdictions as we consider how to build the
best workers’ compensation system possible.
In early 2017, the government created a Task Force to address the concerns of rising premiums for businesses and sustainable benefits for workers. Also in 2017, the government asked the Auditor General to conduct an audit of WorkSafeNB. Both the Report of the Task Force on WorkSafeNB and the Auditor General’s Report on WorkSafeNB Phase 1 were released in 2018. We are grateful to our stakeholders who shared their perspectives and experiences to inform these reports. It is encouraging to see so many people who care about the quality and sustainability of the system as much as we do. We have listened, we value your feedback, and we are committed to acting on the recommendations. As a new CEO, I couldn’t ask for better analyses and recommendations to help guide our short-term actions and long-term strategies.
Over the past year, I followed through on a personal commitment to meet with all employees as soon as possible. What I found was a group of talented, highly passionate colleagues from all over the province with grit, resolve, and intelligence. They knew that we needed to change how we operate. I was convinced that they were up for the challenge. With the Task Force report and the Auditor General report as a background, and with the support and guidance of the board of directors, the WorkSafeNB team embarked on the development of a new Strategic Plan that would guide us for the next three to four years.
This Strategic Plan focused on four main pillars:
1. DRIVE A SAFETY-FIRST CULTURE
2. ACHIEVE EFFECTIVE RECOVERY
3. PROTECT SYSTEM SUSTAINABILITY
4. BUILD A WORKPLACE COMMITTED TO
Following the release of the Task Force report in July, we met with stakeholders representing workers and employers, as well as members of all political parties to outline the priority changes we felt were necessary to stabilize New Brunswick’s workers’ compensation system. Thankfully, the government quickly passed legislative amendments addressing several of the key Task Force recommendations. We were very appreciative of the unanimous support from all parties that enabled passage of the bill in record time. These key changes benefit both workers and employers, including improvements in organizational governance, the elimination of a three-day unpaid waiting period for workers and clarification that workers’ compensation applies to injuries and/or diseases that occur solely in the course of employment.
We understand that we must transform our organization to ensure we can better meet the needs of New Brunswickers today and into the future – one that offers optimal care for injured workers to help them recover and return to work as soon as safely possible and that meets the health and safety needs of employers, both small and large.
I am proud of the team at WorkSafeNB who have worked so diligently to implement the recent changes in legislation and recommendations. Their commitment and passion throughout this time of significant change is what continues to fuel our momentum to transform our organization and build our future, together. I would also like to thank the board of directors for their support and guidance throughout this past year; they have been essential in helping us move forward with clarity of purpose, all the while being accountable to you, our valued stakeholders.
to 2019 with promise. We have much work to do, and there are many challenges – but lying in front of us is an incredible opportunity. I am more motivated than ever about what the future holds for WorkSafeNB, and for our province.