Legislative Updates for November & December 2018
Caregiving Benefits and Leave. Through Employment Insurance, caregivers can receive financial assistance of up to 55% of your earnings, to a maximum of $547 per week. These benefits will help caregivers take time away from work to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person or someone needing end-of-life care. Caregivers do not have to be related to or live with the supported person. For more information, visit: The Government of Canada website.
EI Maternity and Parental Benefits. Applications for EI maternity benefits can submitted before giving birth. Benefits can be paid as early as 12 weeks before the expected date of birth and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth. EI parental benefits are offered to parents who are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child or children. Parental benefits can be either standard or extended. For more information, visit: The Government of Canada website.
Gradual enhancement to Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Starting January 1, 2019, you will receive higher benefits in exchange for making higher contributions. The CPP enhancement will only affect you if, as of 2019, you work and make contributions to the CPP. The CPP enhancement will no affect you if you only work in Quebec. The enhancement will increase CPP retirement, disability and survivor's pensions you may receive. Eligibility for CPP benefits will not be affected. For more information, visit: The Government of Canada website.
British Columbians to benefit from more treatment options. British Columbians living with heart failure, liver disease or pulmonary arterial hypertension now have more treatment options available to them to better manage their condition. Three limited overage drugs were added to the PharmaCare Special Authority program as of October 30, 2018—Ivabradine (Lancora), Obeticholic acid (Ocaliva) and Selexipag (Uptravi). Source: The Government of British Columbia website.
Registering a Captive Insurance Company. The Government of British Columbia updated the application process by which a British Columbia captive insurance company (captive) can register with the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to carry on insurance business in BC as a captive insurance company. For more information, visit: The Government of British Columbia Financial Institutions Commissions bulletin (opens as PDF).
Filing requirements for British Columbia incorporated property and casualty insurance companies. The Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) issued an updated information bulletin to communicate the annual, quarterly and other regulatory filing requirements for British Columbia incorporated property and casualty (P&C) insurance companies. Changes were effective Q4 2018. For more information, visit: The Government of British Columbia Financial Institutions Commissions bulletin (opens as PDF)
Changes to minimum wage. Effective October 1, 2018, minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour—a move towards a fair wage for every Albertan. Source: The Government of Alberta website.
Changes to Employment Standards Code. Effective January 1, 2018, the Employment Standards Code provides minimum employment standards that apply to a majority of employers and employees in the province, with the exception of those working in federally regulated industries. Products and services are available to help Albertans learn the new rules. For more information, visit: The Government of Alberta website.
Youth Employment Laws. Under provincial jurisdiction, employees under 18 years of age have specific employment rules and restrictions they must follow. Different rules are outlined for employees 12 years of age or younger, 13-14 years of age, and 15-17 years of age. For more information, visit: The Government of Alberta website.
2019 premium rates. Our rate setting process ensures the long-term stability of the workers’ compensation system and the protection of benefits for injured workers well into the future. In 2019, the average premium rate will be $1.08. Source: Workers’ Compensation Board – Alberta.
Improvement to job leaves for new parents, caregivers and assault survivors. The Government of Saskatchewan announced change to some job-protected leaves in an amendment to the Saskatchewan Employment Act. Maternity and adoption leave will increase from 18 weeks to 19 weeks, which will make Saskatchewan a leader in the country offering the longest maternity and adoption leave in Canada. The government also announced a new critically ill adult leave, which will offer 17 weeks for workers to care for critically ill adult family members, and extended the 10 days of interpersonal violence leave to include survivors of all forms of sexual violence. Source: The Government of Saskatchewan website.
Average employer premium rate approved by the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). The Saskatchewan WCB has approved an average employer premium rate of $1.17 per hundred dollars of payroll. This is a decrease of 1.7 per cent from the 2018 rate of $1.19 marking the 12th consecutive year the rate has dropped and the lowest rate in more than 30 years. Source: Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board.
Family caregiver leave. Family caregiver leave is unpaid, job-protected leave of up to eight weeks per calendar year per specified family member. The eight weeks can be taken consecutively or separately. To take a family caregiver leave of absence, an employee must inform the employer in writing. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.
Pregnancy and parental leave. Pregnant employees have the right to take pregnancy leave of up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off work. In some cases, the leave may be longer. Employers do not have to pay wages to someone who is on pregnancy leave. An employer cannot penalize an employee in any way because the employee is or will be eligible to take a pregnancy or parental leave, or for taking or planning to take a pregnancy or parental leave. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.
WSIB Ontario now operating without an Unfunded Liability (UFL). The elimination of the UFL has allows Schedule 1 businesses an average premium rate reduction of 29.8 percent for 2019. For the third year in a row, the WSIB has been able to offer reductions in the average premium rate for Schedule 1 businesses, bringing the total cumulative reduction to the average premium rate since 2016 to 36.3 per cent. This represents a premium decrease from a Schedule 1 average rate of $2.35 on every $100 of insurable payroll in 2018 to an average of $1.65 in 2019. For more information visit: Workplace Safety and Insurance Board – Ontario.
Barriers reduced for the integration of people with disabilities. The 2017-2021 Disability Action Plan demonstrates the RAMQ’s commitment to reducing barriers to the integration of people with disabilities that it employs or who are part of its clientele. It is spread over 4 years and the actions are gradually carried out according to the established schedule. The RAMQ has achieved the first record of this action plan. Covering the period 2017-2018, it presents the progress of each of the actions included in the plan as of March 31, 2018. Source: The Government of Quebec website.
Pensions under the QPP will increase by 2.3% in January 2019. Pensions under the Québec Pension Plan are indexed annually based on the average Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by Statistics Canada. The annual adjustments affect beneficiaries of retirement pensions, surviving spouse’s pensions, disability pensions, orphans’ pensions and pensions for a disabled person’s child. Source: The Government of Quebec website.
WorkSafeNB tightens opioid prescribing guidelines. WorkSafeNB has changed the way it manages opioid prescriptions for clients recovering from workplace injuries. Highlights from an updated policy that went into effect on September 29, 2018 include stricter monitoring reducing the initial authorization period for opioid prescriptions from 6 weeks to 2 weeks and limiting opioid dosages to 50 mg morphine equivalent per day. Source: Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada.
Recreational cannabis is here. After October 17, 2018 it is illegal and not safe to work impaired. Employers must take every reasonable precaution to ensure their workers’ health and safety. This includes providing a workplace free from impairment, regardless of whether the impairment comes from cannabis, fatigue, alcohol, over-the-counter, prescription or illegal drugs. For more information, visit: WorkSafe New Brunswick.
WorkSafeNB sets 2019 assessment. For the third year in a row, WorkSafeNB must increase the assessment rate charged to employers to cover the growing costs of workers’ compensation in NB. The 2019 average assessment rate will be $2.92 per $100 of payroll compared to the 2018 rate of $1.70. Source: WorkSafe New Brunswick.
Proclamation of new legislation impacting New Brunswick’s workers’ compensation system. New legislation repeals that provision in stages, with the initial elimination of one unpaid day effective July 1, 2019 and the complete elimination of the unpaid waiting period by July 1, 2021. The legislative changes will also have an immediate impact on the rates that employers pay as the 2019 average assessment rate, previously announced as $2.92 per $100 of payroll, is being reduced to $2.65. WorkSafeNB’s actuaries have reviewed the impact of the new legislation and, in accordance with current policies, have determined that a $94 million reduction in certain liabilities will be realized immediately, resulting in the lower rate for 2019. Source: WorkSafe New Brunswick.
Support for Family Members Caring for Children Separated from Parents. A new program is supporting grandparents and other family members who care for children separated from their parents. Alternative Family Care helps prevent children from coming into the care of the province by providing financial assistance to extended family members and other caregivers to support the children’s needs. The goal is to keep a familiar connection until the children are able to be reunited with their parents. Under Alternative Family Care, the caregiver receives a start-up amount of $500 for the first child, and $250 per additional child, up to a maximum of $1,000 in the first month. They will then receive $250 per month, per child. Source: The Government of Nova Scotia website.
Prince Edward Island
Financial assistance available for Islanders living with a permanent ostomy. Beginning January 1, 2019, more than 580 Islanders living with a permanent ostomy will be eligible for financial assistance. Individuals living with an ostomy use an external pouch to eliminate waste from their body. Through the new Ostomy Supplies Program Islanders may be eligible for 60 to 90 per cent coverage to assist with the out-of-pocket cost of eligible ostomy supplies to a maximum of $2,400 per full program year (from July 1 – June 30). Additional ostomy support will continue to be provided for low-income individuals who quality for AccessAbility Supports through the Department of Family and Human Services. Source: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.
Family-friendly amendments to the Employment Standards Act. Effective December 29, 2018, parental leave for Islanders will be extended from 12 months to 18 months to align with the federal employment insurance changes, compassionate care leave will be extended from 8 weeks to 28 weeks, and the qualifying period for an employee to receive sick leave will be reduced from 6 months to 3 months. With these changes, PEI is more closely aligned with the federal employment insurance benefits as well as all other provinces. Source: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Retirement benefit to be available for more injured workers. Legislation that will make retirements available for more injured workers in Newfoundland and Labrador was introduced for second reading in the House of Assembly on November 15, 2018. The proposed amendment to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act provides for a new retirement benefit that is a one-time, lump sum payment of 5% of Extended Earning Loss (EEL) benefits, plus interest. For injured workers who were previously part of an employer-sponsored pension plan, the lump sum payment will be 10% of their EEL benefit, plus interest. The change would come into effect, January 1, 2019. Source: WorkplaceNL
Employment standards. Yukon Employment Standards Act and expanded federal leave benefits. The government of Canada has made changes to family caregiving and parental leave benefits under the federal government’s Employment Insurance program. Yukon is considering making changes to the amount of parental leave and leave for people to care for critically ill family members within our Employment Standards Act. Without this change, Yukon employees will not have the right to access the full range of these federal employment insurance benefits. Currently, these types of benefit programs being considered are unpaid leave and only ensure job protection. Source: The Government of Yukon website.
Maximum wage rate. Yukon’s 2019 maximum wage rate is $89,145. This is an increase from 2018. Source: Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Northwest Territories Disability Action Plan released. The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has released the Government of the Northwest Territories Disability Action Plan 2018/19-2021/22. The Action Plan identifies key activities the government is doing to improve support for NWT residents with disabilities. The Disability Action Plan focuses on five key objectives and is part of the Department of Health and Social Services Disability Program Review and Renewal Project, which aims to ensure that effective supports and programs are in place for persons with disabilities. For more information, visit: The Government of Northwest Territories website.
Employer assessment rates released for 2019. The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have announced that the Year’s Maximum Insurable Remuneration (YMIR) will increase from $90,600 to $92,400. YMIR is the maximum earnings the WSCC uses to calculate compensation paid to an injured worker per year. Source: Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
New CPP/QPP enhancements effective January 1, 2019. In 2016, the Government of Canada reached an agreement with the provinces that provides significant enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan, with an announcement of similar changes to the Quebec Pension Plan in 2017. Beginning January 1, 2019, changes will gradually be phased in. Employers should be turning their attention to these changes as both short-term actions and long-term strategic considerations. Key changes include adjustments to target retirement benefits and contribution rates. For more information, visit: Benefits Canada.
Maximum pensionable earnings for 2019 and other CRA updates. The Canada Revenue Agency has announced that the maximum pensionable earnings under the Canada Pension Plan for 2019 will be $57,400, up from $55,900 in 2018. Contributors who earn more than $57,400 won’t be permitted to make additional contributions to the CPP. The basic exemption amount for 2019 remains $3,500. Source: Benefits Canada.
The registered retirement savings plan dollar limit, another indexed figure, has also been updated for 2019, and will be $26,500, up from $26,230 this year. The tax-free savings account limit for 2019 will be officially announced later this year. As well, employee and employer CPP contribution rates for 2019 will be 5.1%, up from 4.95% in 2018. Meanwhile, the self-employed contribution rate will be 10.2%, up from 9.9% in 2018. This increase is due to the CPP enhancement that will be implemented on January 1, 2019. Source: Benefits Canada.
Ontario to move forward with variable benefits from DC pensions. The Ontario government is moving forward with legislation around variable benefits from defined contribution plans facilitating mergers into jointly sponsored pension plans and enabling the electronic designation of beneficiaries in pension plans. The government also said it is committed to improving the pension system for the university sector, referring to several universities’ move to combine their respective pension plans into one jointly sponsored define benefit plan. As well, the government is proposing amendments to the Pension Benefits Act that, if passed, would allow administrators of pension plans to permit electronic beneficiary designations rather than paper-based processes. Source: Benefits Canada.
Ontario is continuing to implement various pension reforms enacted over the past few years. These include changes to the annuity discharge rules, benefit improvement and contribution holiday restrictions, as well as changes affecting the pension benefits guarantee fund and a plan’s statement of investment policies and procedures. In addition, Ontario recently passed legislative changes to implement a disclosable event regime, similar to comparable rules in the United Kingdom and the United States. Ontario is also considering introducing a distressed pension plan workout scheme, which is similar in effect to existing federal regulations and is exploring additional measures to support the long-term sustainability and affordability of plans within the broader public sector. Source: Benefits Canada.
Enhancements to the Quebec Pension Plan starting January 2019. If you work in Quebec and earning more than $3,500 a year, you and your employer make equal contributions to the QPP. As of January 1, 2019, the QPP will comprise two plans: the base plan and the additional plan. This enhancement stems from Bill 149, which was passed by the National Assembly in February 2018, and aims to help improve the standard of living of future retirees. For more information, visit: Retraite Québec.