The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is giving $10 million back to Yukon employers by the end of the year.
It’s part of the board’s plan to reduce its compensation fund’s excess reserves, which sat at $52 million as of last December.
The board is also lowering assessment rates by between two to 15.7 per cent next year.
The compensation fund has more money than it needs, said board members at a news conference last Thursday.
The fund needs to have enough money to cover the cost of all injury claims, as well as future costs of those injuries.
All Yukon employers pay into the fund. About 21,500 employees were covered last year.
The rate group comprised of employers who build, repair or demolish buildings, and those involved in concrete construction, including masonry and bricklaying, will benefit from the 15.7 per cent decrease in assessment rates, said WCB spokesperson Becky Striegler.
The total cost of caring for every Yukoner injured on the job to date was estimated at $138 million as of last year, according to the WCB’s website. The board aims for a funding target between $167 million to $178 million, a contingency that protects against “extraordinary workplace calamities and stock market fluctuations.”
As it stands, the cost of running the compensation system is roughly $2.30 per $100 of payroll. Next year, the average assessment rate will be $1.85 per $100.
The board plans on reducing the excess reserves over the next four years, so “employers gradually shoulder the true cost of the system each year.”
As of 2014, the board’s investments were valued at $215 million.
For the past several years, those investments have been doing remarkably well. They’ve had an average return of 9.3 per cent per year, which has largely contributed to the excess reserves, according to Striegler.
Another contributor was the decrease in total claims expenses, from $26.3 million in 2013 to $17.7 million last year.
The board’s funding policy mandates it to return excess reserves to employers, or to charge them more when the fund drops below its target amount.
The board is examining ways it can re-invest some of its funds into injury prevention programs, according to its website.
Last year, five workers died in the territory, and another 435 were injured badly enough to require time off from work.
That’s up from 419 in 2013, according to the board’s 2014 annual report.
“In the shadow of those deaths and injuries, returning this money was not an easy decision for the board of directors,” said board chair Mark Pike in a news release.
“It runs counter to the spirit of the compensation system, which rewards success in injury prevention.”
Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce President Rick Karp said the board’s decision to give some of the surplus back to the business community is in line with other jurisdictions across Canada.
A large portion of the $10 million will be going to the Yukon government, as the territory’s biggest employer. Karp said he hopes the money goes towards funding workplace safety programs.
The board is currently working on a way to distribute the $10 million by the end of December.
Contact Myles Dolphin at email@example.com