Canadian Payroll and Human Resource News and Articles - December 2015Canadian Payroll and Human Resource News and Articles - December 2015

Payroll News Canada - December 2015

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Welcome to the latest edition of The Payroll News! As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends and associates who are interested in keeping up with the latest changes in the Canadian Payroll industry. Federal and Provincial news are listed immediately below followed by our Featured Article and other useful topics.

Tip of the Month Federal News Provincial News
Featured Article Software Updates Newsletter Archive



Tip of the Month

December 2015 - Review Year-to-Date (YTD) and Accrued Vacation Amounts - As year-end approaches, it's often deemed the most optimal time for companies to switch payroll providers. If you are making a switch, it's important to ensure that the YTD amounts are entered accurately for all employees who are in the payroll, particularly if they have been paid previously in the year. All payments must add up at the end of the year so that they may be accurately reflected in each employee's T4 and/or T4A. If the YTD amounts are incorrect, it could result in an overpayment of taxes and other source deductions like CPP or EI.

Looking for past tips? Please visit our Tip of the Month archive for historical tips other useful information that will assist with your payroll and HR tasks.

Canadian Federal Payroll and HR News

December 8, 2015 - Payroll Deductions Formulas for Computer Programs - The January 1, 2016, version of Guide T4127, Payroll Deductions Formulas for Computer Programs is now available on the CRA website. This guide contains the formulas you need to determine federal, provincial (except Quebec), and territorial income taxes, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, and Employment Insurance (EI) premium deductions. The formulas also allow you to calculate payroll deductions for special cases such as commission, pension income, bonuses, and retroactive pay increases. (Full Story)

December 15, 2015 - Interest rates for the first calendar quarter - The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) today announced the prescribed annual interest rates that will apply to any amounts owed to the CRA and to any amounts the CRA owes to individuals and corporations. These rates will be in effect from January 1, 2016 to March 31, 2016. There have been no changes to the prescribed interest rates since last quarter, except for the interest rate for corporate taxpayers’ pertinent loans or indebtedness. (Full Story)

November 30, 2015 - Helping Small Businesses Adopt WHMIS 2015 - The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Bureau of Health Canada, have made free tools available to help small businesses in Canada navigate the transition to WHMIS 2015. While WHMIS 2015 includes new harmonized criteria and requirements, the roles and responsibilities for suppliers, employers and workers have not changed. Workers have a right to know about the hazards that may come with the products they use, and employers must ensure that there is workplace-specific training in place that reviews the hazardous products in their workplace and safe work procedures. (Full Story)

November 11, 2015 - 4130 Employers' Guide - Taxable Benefits and Allowances - The CRA has made changes to the 4130 Employers' Guide - Taxable Benefits and Allowances. If you provide benefits or allowances to your employees, you may have to include the value of a taxable benefit or allowance in an employee's income, depending on the type of benefit or allowance and the reason you give it. A benefit or allowance can be paid to your employee in cash (such as a meal allowance) or provided to your employee in a manner other than cash (such as a parking space or a gift). This guide explains your responsibilities and shows you how to calculate the value of taxable benefits or allowances. (Full Story)

November 2015 - Expenses Related to Pension Plans - The CRA has updated the information for the GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin B-032. Legislation relating to the GST/HST treatment of pension plan expenses incurred by employers was enacted effective for fiscal years of an employer beginning on or after September 23, 2009. Therefore, the administrative policy outlined in the August 2011 version of the GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin B-032 was removed as it ceases to apply effective the first day of an employer’s fiscal year that begins on or after September 23, 2009. (Full Story)

Provincial Payroll and HR News

(Click a Province to expand the articles)



December 19, 2015 - Government protects private sector pension plans - The Alberta Cabinet has approved two changes to the Employment Pension Plans Regulation which will protect the benefits for a group of private sector pension plans. One of the changes allows defined benefit collectively-bargained, multi-employer pension plans to continue a moratorium on solvency funding until permanent legislation addressing their funding concerns is in place. The second change deals with pension splitting rules in cases of marriage breakdown for supplemental plans registered under the Employment Pension Plans Regulation. (Full Story)

December 15, 2014 - Alberta takes action to control spending - Effective immediately, a hiring restraint initiative has been implemented in the Alberta Government in order to reduce payroll and staffing costs. This is one of the cost containment measures taken immediately, as the new committee lays foundation for Budget 2015. Resource revenues are expected to be lower while the population is expected to be higher, and the combination poses some unique challenges for Alberta. Public sector compensation is the largest driver of government expense, accounting for $22.5 billion in direct and indirect spending last fiscal year. (Full Story)

November 26, 2015 - 2015 premium rate reduction - The Workers' Compensation Board has announced that the average premium rate for 2015 will drop to $0.97. This amount affects the rate that businesses pay for WCB coverage for their employees. The Alberta WCB website also states that 2015 annual premium rate statements will not be mailed. 2015 employer premium rate statements will be available electronically on December 5, 2014 (you must sign up for myWCB to access your online 2015 rate statement). (Full Story)

November 17, 2015 - Government announces farm and ranch workers legislation - Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, was introduced in the Alberta Legislature today. If approved, the law would ensure that 60,000 farm and ranch workers in Alberta will have the same basic protections that other workers in the province have received for decades. Some of the changes would include: providing Workers’ Compensation Board insurance coverage so that workers can continue to support their families if they are injured on the job. Farm and ranch workers will be protected by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations beginning January 1, 2016. Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for farm and ranch workers will also be mandatory as of this date. (Full Story)

December 18, 2015 - Single parents build a future with employment initiative - More than 1,300 single parents on income and disability assistance are participating in the provincial government’s Single Parent Employment Initiative launched on Sept. 1. Participants may receive up to 12 months of funded training for in-demand jobs, or on-the-job training, through a paid work-experience placement. The Province will invest $24.5 million over five years in the initiative. 1,335 single parents are participating in the Single Parent Employment Initiative as of Dec. 14, 2015. More than 100 are already enrolled in training programs or work placement and 50 are already in the workplace in the construction, retail, health and community service sectors. (Full Story)

December 17, 2015 - Office assistants training for in-demand jobs - B.C. locals are getting classroom training and work experience as in-demand office administrative assistant workers, as a result of nearly $250,000 in provincial funding for Vancouver Community College. After the classroom work, learners receive four weeks of on-the-job experience at offices around Vancouver, then four weeks of job search support. Project-Based Labour Market Training helps groups of people with on- or off-the-job employment training and is a component of Community and Employer Partnerships, which were introduced in April 2012 as part of the Employment Program of B.C. (Full Story)

December 10, 2015 - Valuable labour market research for cooks and chefs underway - An investment of $140,160 will fund a comprehensive labour market information study to identify the skills required for in-demand cooks and chefs and outline effective strategies to train, attract and retain chefs and cooks. The study will also look at issues related to wages, productivity, labour as a proportion of operational costs, gratuities and other non-wage benefits. This labour study is not only beneficial to the tourism and hospitality sector, but it will be an important source of information across all sectors that employ cooks and chefs such as natural resources and health care to institutional employers. (Full Story)

December 7, 2015 - Connecting more students with skills training and mentorship in northern B.C. - More students in B.C.’s north will connect with the skills and experience they need for the jobs of the future through an expanded $4.9-million Shoulder Tappers program announced today. The program is based on the successful Northern Opportunities partnership in northeast B.C., which started with a focus on skilled trades careers. The Province launched B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint in April 2014 to re-engineer education and training so British Columbians are first in line for careers of tomorrow. (Full Story)

December 4, 2015 - B.C. students code their way to in-demand jobs of tomorrow - Nearly 400 students aged 8 to 18 will have the opportunity to participate in free coding events at tech-based organizations throughout B.C. to help raise awareness for computer science education, thanks to support from the Government of B.C. In partnership with B.C. teachers through Computer Using Educators of British Columbia (CUEBC), UBC Okanagan and private sector organizations, government is proud to sponsor four free Hour of Code events that will introduce students to coding. Coding is becoming an essential skill in today’s work-force, and software development is one of the most in-demand skills of the 21st century. (Full Story)

November 30, 2015 - B.C.'s Skills for Jobs Blueprint and First Nations - In April 2014, B.C.'s Skills for Jobs Blueprint was released. The Blueprint outlines a cross-ministry agenda to re-align and strengthen education and skills training opportunities to improve employment outcomes and to drive productivity. A key target of the Blueprint is to increase Aboriginal workforce participation by 15,000 new Aboriginal workers by 2024. To date, the program has supported more than 1,500 Aboriginal learners in 66 Aboriginal communities through 81 projects. These investments and supported programs help ensure B.C.'s Aboriginal population benefits from the significant job opportunities resulting from the development of B.C.'s natural resource industry, especially the LNG sector. (Full Story)

December 18, 2015 - Manitoba Renews Program Focused On Energy Efficiency, On-The-Job Training - The Manitoba government will renew the successful Brandon Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP), providing lower-income people with experience in the skilled trades while also making local buildings more environmentally friendly. BEEP training will be available to people in Brandon and the surrounding communities who are unemployed or at risk of becoming unemployed.  Trainees who want to continue their education will be given the opportunity to upgrade math or literacy skills, and pursue apprenticeship opportunities. (Full Story)

November 30, 2015 - WCB Encourages Workplace Inclusion for People of All Abilities - December 3, 2015 marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities to build global awareness, understanding and support for those affected by disability issues. The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) encouraged Manitobans to take this day to consider ways to improve inclusion in the workplace for people of all abilities. The WCB offers employers free workshops on how to set up a return to work program and has an Employer Relationship team with return to work specialists who are able to coach and mentor workplaces in developing effective return to work programs. (Full Story)

November 27, 2015 - Province Announces Plans For New Industrial Skills Trades Training Centre - The Manitoba government will partner with the Mystery Lake School Division and the University College of the North (UCN) to build a new trades training centre to help students take advantage of the good jobs created by Manitoba Hydro and provincial investments in northern infrastructure and mining. announced here today. "Skilled workers are in demand in northern Manitoba and quality training closer to home is the key to helping workers get those good jobs," said Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum. (Full Story)

November 25, 2015 - Province To Introduce Proposed New Legislation That Would Provide Paid Leave, Job Protection For Victims Of Domestic Violence - The Manitoba government will be introducing groundbreaking proposed changes to the Employment Standards Code that would give victims of domestic violence the right to time off work without fear of job loss, give employees a new leave for long-term illness and injury, and extend the length of leave for compassionate care. Under the proposed legislation, employees who are victims of domestic violence would be entitled to a defined number of leaves that are available in each 52-week period. The proposed legislation would also provide for leave for employees to deal with a long-term illness of injury, and extend compassionate care leave to help workers care for a loved one. Both of these proposed changes would allow eligible workers to access corresponding federal employment insurance benefits. (Full Story)

November 25, 2015 - Average WCB Assessment Rates Set to Drop in 2016 - The average WCB assessment rate in Manitoba will drop to $1.25 from $1.30 per $100 of assessable payroll beginning January 1, 2016, maintaining Manitoba's rate as one of the lowest rates in Canada. The commitment of employers and workers to prevention and recovery goals and the WCB's healthy financial situation made the rate decrease possible. The average rate reduction will result in the WCB collecting 9 million dollars less from employers in 2016 than in 2015. Overall, nearly 40 per cent of employers will see a decrease in their assessment rate in 2016. The average rate reduction will also cushion the impact on employers as the WCB transitions to a new rate model. Transition to the new rate model will be phased in over five years. (Full Story)

November 17, 2015 - Manitoba Government Partners With Canada Goose To Create Jobs - The Manitoba government is partnering with Canada Goose on training initiatives that will benefit hundreds of people. The partnership with Canada Goose will support the hiring and training of more than 300 new workers in skills such as garment manufacturing and workplace culture, through Opportunities for Employment and Workplace Education Manitoba. These investments support Manitoba's commitment to add 75,000 workers to the labour force by 2020, and meets commitments to support investments in education and training. (Full Story)

December 16, 2015 - New Brunswick gets top mark for workers' compensation system - The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has rated New Brunswick’s workers' compensation system as the best overall in Canada. In a report released December 10, the group representing more than 109,000 small businesses across the country gives New Brunswick's system, administered by WorkSafeNB, the highest score of seven out of 10. CFIB's 2015 Small Business Workers’ Compensation Index compares workers' compensation systems across Canada from a small business owner’s perspective. It considers such factors as cost of premiums, claims management, coverage, long-term financial sustainability and customer service. (Full Story)

December 1, 2015 - WorkSafeNB hires more officers to reach even more employers - As part of its ongoing commitment to help employers create healthy and safe work environments for New Brunswickers, WorkSafeNB has hired seven additional health and safety officers. This means increased prevention activities, expanded educational resources and more presence and support for New Brunswick employers. WorkSafeNB offers several new resources to help employers prepare for visits on its online Safety Excellence NB portal. (Full Story)

November 20, 2015 - Maritime premiers agree to common approach - The premiers of the three Maritime provinces recently met and have agreed to work towards a common approach to procurement, employment standards and the timing of increases to the minimum wage. Each province currently has different documents and procedures for procurement, making the conduct of business in the Maritimes more complex and cumbersome than necessary. The three Maritime provinces also have differences in employment laws and labour standards. In addition, the premiers intend to move toward a shared date for future minimum wage changes. (Full Story)

December 7, 2016 - WCB Third quarter client service satisfaction surveys - Beginning the week of December 7, WorkplaceNL will conduct its third quarter client service satisfaction survey. This is part of WorkplaceNL's strategy to further improve client service. A random sample of injured workers and employers will be contacted. If you are an injured worker or employer, you may receive a call about WorkplaceNL's services from Corporate Research Associates, an independent research company with an office in Newfoundland and Labrador. Individual comments and answers are confidential and will not be provided on an individual basis to WorkplaceNL. WorkplaceNL will only be provided with a final report on overall survey results. (Full Story)

November 13, 2015 - 2016 Shop Closing Holidays - At the request of the Labour Relations Agency, the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs has released the list of days that are to be observed as holidays during the 2016 calendar year under the Shops Closing Act. In addition to the 10 holidays (6 paid and 4 unpaid, the Shops Closing Act also sets Regatta Day as an observance. The Shops Closing Act requires that all shops, other than those defined as exempt shops, be closed on the listed holidays. (Full Story)

December 18, 2015 - Labour Market Programs - The Government of the Northwest Territories provides a variety of programs to help people gain essential employment skills and for employers to train and recruit skilled workers. Delivered through regional ECE Service Centres, the department provides career counseling and support for workplace skills development and training, and labour force planning. Skills development programs include work experience, educational programs, self employment, and community initiatives. (Full Story)

December 8, 2015 - Payroll Rebates Approved - Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) has approved business development incentives in the form of payroll rebates for two local businesses. Collectively, both companies have the potential to create more than 100 jobs. Payroll rebates are designed in a way that the tax revenue generated for the province by the new jobs in Nova Scotia is always more than the amount spent on the rebate. Rebates are only disbursed after a business has generated actual payroll generated for the Nova Scotia economy. When a company submits an annual rebate claim, it must send NSBI audited information that confirms the number of jobs it created that year. (Full Story)

December 7, 2015 - WCB introduces new phone features and expands direct deposit - As part of their ongoing service evolution, WCB Nova Scotia has made changes to how workers receive eligible benefits and what information can be accessed through their phone system. Direct deposit is now available as a secure method of payment for more types of benefits, including monthly long-term benefits such as pensions, as well as temporary benefits and payments for medical and travel expenses covered by the WCB. Other recent phone enhancements make it easier for workers, employers and service providers to access specific types of information when they call. Using secure, self-serve phone options, callers can access some basic claim and account information, and make changes to their accounts. (Full Story)

November 23, 2015 - Better Employment Services for Job Seekers and Employers - Government met with 51 partners on Nov. 23, to begin the overhaul of the employment services system that helps Nova Scotians find jobs. As part of the re-design, employment service organizations will work together to develop a new service delivery structure that will meet the needs of their individual communities. It will mean better career advice and information for young people and their parents, and improved support for employers who have jobs to fill. (Full Story)

November 20, 2015 - Changes Enhance Protection of Workers - Changes to the Labour Standards Code will clarify and enhance protections for employees who make inquiries or provide information to Labour Standards officials. The changes will protect employees who contact Labour Standards, whether or not a complaint is ever filed. The proposed amendments will clarify and enhance protection for employees. Some of the areas that have been clarified include protecting employees who initiates an inquiry, investigation, or other proceeding; who make a statement or gives information to Labour Standards officials; and who asks/requires the employer to comply with the code/regulations. (Full Story)

November 19, 2015 - Compassionate Care, Bereavement Leaves Extended - Working Nova Scotians will have more time to care for a gravely ill family member or to mourn the loss of a close family member. Changes to the Labour Standards Code were announced that will extend compassionate care and bereavement leaves. Changes will extend compassionate care leave from eight to 28 weeks and protect employees' jobs while they are on leave. This amendment will align with federal labour legislation changes and increases in Employment Insurance benefits for eligible employees caring for a family member who has a significant risk of death. Nova Scotia is the first province to bring its labour code in line with federal compassionate care changes. Amendments to the Labour Standards Code will take effect Jan. 3, 2016. (Full Story)

November 19, 2015 - Amendments to New Pooled Registered Pension Plan Act - Amendments to the Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act have been announced - amendments that will allow money from the funds to flow into other retirement savings plans under the Pension Benefits Act. This will ensure workers have consistent options and protections when they retire, regardless of whether they have been saving through a defined contribution pension plan or a Pooled Registered Pension Plan. Pooled Registered Pension Plans will provide a low-cost, regulated retirement savings option for employers, employees and the self-employed across the province. (Full Story)

December 2, 2015 - September Inuit Employment Statistics - The Government of Nunavut has released the Employment statistics report for September, 2015. The report strives to serve the public by providing timely, accurate data about the public service. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) contains Article 23, with the objective of increasing Inuit participation in government employment in Nunavut to a representative level. This snapshot of employment statistics is reported quarterly in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut and the statistics represent the Inuit employment level within the GN in several different categories; occupational, community, region, and department. (Full Story)

December 3, 2015 - Ontario Improving Employment Opportunities for People Facing Barriers - Ontario is partnering with leading financial institutions to create a fund aimed at increasing employment opportunities for people facing employment barriers. The Community Loans Fund, part of Ontario's Accessibility Action Plan, will provide discounted rates on financial products, such as loans, to businesses that commit to hiring people facing barriers such as people with disabilities, long-term unemployed, older unemployed, newcomers to Canada and unemployed Indigenous persons. (Full Story)

December 1, 2015 - Ontario Connecting Workers in Windsor to Local Jobs - Ontario is supporting a new 18-month pilot program based in Windsor that will help better connect local jobseekers to available work opportunities in the region. Workforce WindsorEssex has been selected by the province to deliver one of eight Local Employment Planning Council pilot projects across Ontario. Local Employment Planning Councils will act as a hub to connect employers, industry associations, sector groups and other employer groups with appropriate labour market information. Accurate, up-to-date, local labour market information is crucial to ensure local businesses, government, educational institutions and job-seekers can make better, more informed decisions. (Full Story)

November 27, 2015 - WSIB introduces new Grants Program to enhance return to work and recovery outcomes - The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has introduced a new Grants Program that invites highly practical expert research studies and training initiatives that are designed to enhance return-to-work and recovery outcomes within Ontario’s workplace compensation system. Interested applicants can find more information, including the initial proposal form, on the WSIB website. The deadline for submitting initial proposals is March 4, 2016. (Full Story)

November 20, 2015 - Province Helping Vulnerable Workers Collect Unpaid Wages - New changes to Ontario's employment laws have come into effect to better protect precarious and foreign workers. The Employment Standards Act, 2000 has been amended to allow individuals who are hired through a temporary help agency to recover unpaid wages from both the agency and the agency's client-business, where the agency has not paid the wages. To help strengthen protections for foreign workers, coverage under the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009 is also being extended to foreign nationals who are employed or seeking employment in Ontario through an immigration or foreign temporary employee program. (Full Story)

December 9, 2015 - WCB is looking for your feedback - The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) of Prince Edward Island is looking for feedback on their draft strategic plan. The plan was built upon a foundation of research, consultation and partnership with stakeholders in order to effectively meet the safety and compensation needs of Island workplaces. The strategic plan maps out the future course for the organization and guides the work they do on behalf of their stakeholders. One of the WCB's goals is to help to make safety a priority in all workplaces and reduce the impacts of workplace injury through safe and timely return to work efforts. (Full Story)

December 7, 2015 - Prince Edward Island optimistic about Island labour force trends - For the first five months of 2015, Prince Edward Island saw the largest wage increases in the country. The average hourly wage in the province is more than $20 an hour, up by 3.8 per cent over last year. The Island’s minimum wage has increased by 40 per cent since 2007, higher than the rate of inflation. Last week, two increases were announced for 2016, making Prince Edward Island’s minimum wage the most competitive in Atlantic Canada. Statistics Canada also released its Labour Force Survey last week, showing Prince Edward Island’s unemployment rate increased slightly above 10 per cent for the first time in three months. (Full Story)

December 3, 2015 - Two minimum wage increases coming in 2016 - The minimum wage in Prince Edward Island will increase by 50 cents per hour in the coming year. The province’s minimum wage was raised to the current $10.50 per hour on July 1. Cabinet has approved 25-cent increases to take effect on June 1, 2016 and October 1, 2016, bringing the rate to $10.75 per hour and $11 per hour on those dates. The Employment Standards Board reviews the minimum wage annually under the terms of the Employment Standards Act. It makes recommendations on the minimum wage rate based on economic factors in the province and on input received from the public and stakeholders. (Full Story)

December 18, 2015 - Doherty to Advance Saskatchewan Interests in Ottawa - Canada’s finance ministers will meet in Ottawa on Monday to discuss infrastructure, retirement savings, and other issues. The meeting is expected to focus on infrastructure funding, as well as on a federal proposal to increase mandatory payroll premiums to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).  There are growing concerns about government imposing higher CPP payroll premiums on all working Canadians and their employers at a time when the economy is being challenged by the impact of low commodity prices. Saskatchewan continues to support voluntary efforts to increase retirement savings through options such as Pooled Registered Pension Plans. (Full Story)

December 9, 2015 - Young Job Seekers Reminded to Take Readiness Course this Holiday Season - With the approach of the holiday season, employers and young workers are reminded that 14- and 15-year-olds must take the Young Worker Readiness Certificate Course (YWRCC) before they start working. They must successfully complete the course to obtain a certificate and provide it to their employer along with a letter of parental consent.  Employers must keep both documents on file. The YWRCC is designed to teach young workers about their rights and responsibilities related to health, safety and employment standards in the workplace. (Full Story)

December 4, 2015 - Strong Job Growth in Saskatchewan Compared to the Rest of Canada - Saskatchewan posted strong employment growth numbers in November, especially when compared to the rest of the country. Employment in Saskatchewan was up 7,200 or 1.3 per cent year-over-year - the second-best growth rate in the country and nearly double the national growth rate of 0.7 per cent.  Saskatchewan also has the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 5.5 per cent. Full-time employment was 470,600, a record for the month of November.  There was an increase of 2,600 full-time jobs and part-time increased by 4,700. (Full Story)

December 4, 2015 - WCB's 2016 Assessable Earnings - In 2016, the maximum assessable earning is $69,242. Employers are asked to provide a payroll estimate at the beginning of the year so the WCB can determine employers' premiums. The payroll estimate should always be an accurate reflection of what an employer will be paying to their workers in the year. Employers only need to report wages for each worker up to the maximum assessable earnings each year. For example, if you have a worker who receives a T4 for $100,000, you are only required to report $69,242 for that worker. Make sure that this estimate is always current because employers will be charged a penalty if this is underestimated. Employers can revise their payroll estimate at any time throughout the year. (Full Story)

December 2, 2015 - WCB Approves 2016 Employer Premium Rates - The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) approved the 2016 average employer premium rate for 47,783 employers covered by workers’ compensation and for the ninth consecutive year, rates have dropped. In 2016, the average employer premium decreased from the 2015 level of $1.46 to $1.34, which is an 8.2 percent decrease. All Saskatchewan employers will receive letters this week with the specifics of their 2016 premium rate. (Full Story)

December 16, 2015 - Yukon government to boost foreign-trained accountants' skills - Newcomers to Canada with a background in financial management now have an opportunity to receive specialized training to pursue those careers in Yukon. "The Yukon government is responding to employers' demand for staff with financial management skills," Minister of Education Doug Graham said. "At the same time, we are assisting new Yukoners who have trained abroad but require some support to succeed in the local workplace." This program is funded by Employment and Social Development Canada and the Government of Yukon. The participants will be responsible for financing their certification and may access newcomer microloans. (Full Story)

December 7, 2015 - WCB Maximum Wage Rate - The 2016 maximum wage rate, also known as the maximum assessable earnings rate, is $84,837. There was no change in this rate from 2015. The maximum wage rate is a ceiling used to calculate the maximum benefits injured workers can receive for loss of earnings. It also affects pension amounts for some workers. Maximum assessable earnings is a number used in calculating employers' assessment payments. It determines the maximum level of earnings on which employers can be assessed. Both maximums are the same number; they are revised every year according to methods set out in the Workers' Compensation Act. (Full Story)

November 24, 2015 - Eligible employers to share $10 million of excess reserves - The Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board will issue cheques totaling $10 million to employers as part of its excess reserve rebate. A total of 3,568 eligible employers will share the rebate, receiving a cheque based on the total assessments they paid from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014. Because of the Board’s measured approach, employers will receive a total of $14 million through lower rates and the $10 million rebate by the end of 2015. (Full Story)

November 24, 2015 - Apprenticeship and trades qualification programs reviewed - The Department of Education is conducting an evaluation of its apprenticeship and trades qualification programs to ensure their continuing long-term success. Over the next several weeks, apprentices, tradespeople, employers, educators, non-profit organizations and others will complete online surveys and participate in focus groups aimed at identifying what works well and what government might do to improve the programs. The report on the review, including program recommendations, will be completed in spring 2016. (Full Story)

November 19, 2015 - New agency opens to serve job seekers with disabilities - The Workforce Information Networking Hub opened today to provide employment services to Yukoners with disabilities. The Hub will provide a variety of services to Yukoners with disabilities, including employment counselling, case management, and referral to funding sources for disability accommodations, skills training, and work experience programs. The Hub will also provide job search services such as resume development and interview preparation, as well as public access to computers, photocopiers and fax machines. (Full Story)

Featured Article

Achieving Manitoba's New Customer Service Accessibility Standard

Careful Research and Policy Change Needed to Fulfill the First of Five Established Standards

On November 1, 2015, provincial government regulation came into effect that aims to remove customer service barriers for people with disabilities. The Manitoba government put into effect the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first of five established standards outlined in the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 1.

While the mandate is clear, both employers and members of the disabled community need to carefully analyze the new standard and decide on how they will respond and react to the prescribed changes.

If the standard is embraced and its measures are implemented across all business sectors, employers should expect to see an increase in not only customer numbers, but in overall patron satisfaction and support. I spoke with a number of employers who agreed that this is good news, but they were quick to mention that these changes will come at a cost.

Multiple Areas of Improvement

For some Manitoba businesses, changes will involve basic enhancements to facilities, buildings, structures and premises. Physical access improvements are the most perceptible and perhaps, the most overdue. However, the standard discusses a number of other less-visible areas for improvement - areas that will be more difficult to define.

The standard states that all barriers to information or communications must be addressed. Most businesses will not be able to implement changes to this area immediately since it will require an overall review of how they present and deliver their goods, services and information. It is one thing to update your printed marketing materials or website as needed in order to be more compliant. But how will businesses respond to the needs of customers that have sight or hearing impairments? One business owner stated that he serves a number of vision-impaired customers each week, but he had never considered that his website did not offer any supports for the visually impaired.

Larger companies will have the resources to implement Braille support and auditory devices as required, while others may choose to employ workers who can offer sign language support. However, many small businesses, which make up more than 95% of Manitoba's business sector 2, will need to closely examine their resources if they plan to implement any communication changes over and above traditional print and electronic media.

Once a thorough review is complete and policies are put in force, business owners will need to document their established practices, provide documentation on request (if they employ 20 or more staff), and to post accessibility policies prominently on their applicable premises and websites. Requirements such as these may require employers to initiate both infrastructure and staffing changes.

Defining Disability

Employment and Social Development Canada states, "Because of its complexity, there is no single, harmonized "operational" definition of disability across federal programs" 3. For some, a disability can be a temporary state, such as an illness that can be treated, or a temporary impairment that may result from an accident. For others, a disability is permanent, such as a long-term mobility, hearing or sight impairment. For others, a disability can also be unseen - such as a mental illness or a neurological impairment.

Due to the broad range of disabilities, smart employers instruct their staff to be sensitive to the individual needs of a given customer and to vary the approach based on the given situation. This is sensible advice and most businesses I spoke with agreed that it was a logical way of ensuring customer satisfaction. However some business owners are becoming concerned that the new standard will impose further rules on an already acceptable approach to accessibility issues.

Issues of Interpretation

A majority of Manitoban business continue to support the review and implementation of improved access for those with disabilities. And though the new standard is being welcomed as a logical step, certain portions of the text do leave a number of areas open to discussion. It is these grey areas that have some businesses expressing concern about their ability to adequately interpret the new policies and to successfully implement any required changes.

For example, section 4(2) of the standard asks businesses to review their existing customer service policies and to seek to remove existing barriers that may prevent a disable person from reasonably obtaining, using or benefiting from its goods or services. With many businesses in Manitoba already actively engaged in this approach, it has some asking "What more can I possibly do that I am not already doing?" For some businesses, the answer may be as simple as reaching out to their customers and asking "Are we doing enough, and what can we do better?"

The act's emphasis on having businesses "make reasonable efforts" also leaves a fair bit of room for interpretation. With the standard not being restricted to traditional brick and mortar establishments, will hundreds of mobile food trucks across the province be asked to install portable wheelchair ramps for their daily lunch stops? Or will they be allowed to continue with their more realistic current policy of disembarking their vehicle as needed when serving a customer who uses a wheelchair? When the new standard was announced, I spoke about it with a number of food truck owners over a sunny lunch hour on Broadway Ave. in Winnipeg.  All agreed that their current approach was both effective and practical. Several did wonder though if further changes would be expected of them over the next 36 months as members of the disabled community continue to offer their feedback on the issue.

Skirting the Standard

Section 4(2)(d) of the standard states that "if an existing barrier cannot be reasonably removed, seek to ensure that persons who are disabled by the barrier are provided access to the good or service by alternate means, whether on a temporary or permanent basis...". Some have suggested this section and the inclusion of the words "alternate" and "temporary" may diminish the potential of the standard by providing apathetic businesses with the means to continually skirt the compliancy issue.

For example, there is nothing to prevent a business owner from stating "we're always happy to offer our customers an alternate way, but no one is asking us". Since the standard offers no prescribed approach for logging customer queries, how can anyone be sure that their comments, suggestions or complaints are being recorded and dealt with adequately? The lack of an official approach to dealing with customer feedback will make it difficult to impose any changes against a non-compliant business owner. The onus may end up being on the customer to make their voice heard via social media and other channels.

What's Next?

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross says that organizations in Manitoba will have differing timelines to implement and achieve the new standard. The provincial Government will need to comply within one year while public-sector groups will be given two years to meet the same standards. Private and non-profit organizations, which represent the largest number of groups in the province, will be given three years.

That means many of us on both sides of the story will be able to contribute our knowledge and understanding of the issue and to offer feedback that will result in positive change for Manitoba. At the very least, the new Customer Service Accessibility Standard will compel Manitoba businesses to review their existing policies and to ask if they are really doing enough to support the needs of customers with a disability.

Article by Gerald Adams, Digital Media and Online Services Director at CanPay Software Inc, providers of Canadian payroll and HR software solutions for more than 30 years, and makers of eNETEmployer, a unique web-based Payroll, HR and Employee Scheduling solution. Visit www.enetemployer.com today for your Free trial.

1 The Accessibility for Manitobans Act - http://www.accessibilitymb.ca/pdf/accessibility_for_manitobans_act.pdf
2 Key Small Business Statistics - August 2013 - https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/061.nsf/eng/02804.html
3 Federal Disability Reference Guide  - http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/disability/arc/reference_guide.shtml

 

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