Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

WCB - What you need to know

Registering your account

How do I register for an account?
Visit the WCB website at www.wcb.ab.ca to file an application electronically or to obtain a paper version of the form. You can also call WCB at 1-866-922-9221 for more information.

How long does it take to complete the registration process?
Completing an application takes approximately 15 minutes.  Once submitted, an application form will typically be processed within 5 business days.

What information is required to open a WCB account?
You will need to provide basic information about your business, such as contact information and a description of your operations. You will also answer questions to help WCB determine the type and amount of coverage you need. Detailed information about equipment and assets is not required for farming and ranching operations.

Am I required to fill out all sections of the Application Form?
Some of the questions on the online application will not apply to your operations and can be left blank or skipped. For example, you do not need to provide the names of your competitors or the serial numbers of your equipment; that information is not required for farming and ranching operations. Alternatively, there is a paper application you can fill out with questions tailored specifically to farmers and ranchers: http://www.wcb.ab.ca/pdfs/employers/A657_2016.pdf.

When an employer registers a WCB account online, when does the registration take effect?
Mandatory coverage for waged, non-family workers is effective the date they began working or Jan. 1, 2016, whichever is later. Optional coverage for business owners, non-waged workers, and family members is effective the date the application is submitted.

If I register my account in March or April, will I be charged for my waged, non-family workers retroactively to Jan. 1, 2016?
Yes. Waged, non-family workers are covered effective Jan. 1, 2016. Employers will be assessed premiums for coverage for the entire time workers were employed since Jan. 1, even if the account is opened in March or April. If workers were not yet employed at that time, premium will not be assessed for that period.


I only hire harvest help for the fall. Do I need to sign up by April 30 or can I wait until fall?
The April 30 deadline to sign up for an account applies only to farm owners employing waged, non-family workers on or before that date. If the business is not employing workers until later in the year, the farm owner should open an account within 15 days after the worker’s employment begins.


If I start my business part way through the year (i.e., August), would my annual premium for the year be pro-rated?
Premiums for worker coverage are assessed based on insurable earnings, so if a worker were to work for only a few months or a few days, WCB would assess only on the earnings paid during that period. In other words, the wages paid determine the assessment amount, not the amount of time the coverage is open for.

Coverage for workers

How does WCB determine if someone is a waged worker?
Under the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA), a worker is generally considered anyone who enters into a written or verbal contract of employment for work or services. 

The term “wages” is defined in the Employment Standards Code, and includes salary, pay, money paid for time off instead of overtime pay, commission or remuneration for work, however calculated. It is broader than simply earnings reported on a T-4, and can include individuals hired for custom or contract work.   A person would typically not be considered a waged worker if they receive payment only for expenses, or gifts and bonuses that are unrelated to hours of work, production or efficiency. For help in determining if someone is a worker, call WCB at 1-866-922-9221.


Are workers still covered by WCB when they work more than 12 hours in a day?
Yes. Workers’ compensation coverage applies regardless of the number of hours worked, as long as the injury arises out of and in the course of employment.

How do we handle a shared employee? (i.e., an employee who is shared between me and two neighbours, who works around 50 hours per week)?
Each farm owner would be required to have an account with WCB to cover this waged, non-family worker, but each would only be responsible for insuring the wages that each pays. If only one farm owner pays the worker, only that farm owner would be required to open an account.

Casual labour and subcontractors
I only hire occasional/casual labour. Do I need WCB?
Yes. If you hire waged, non-family workers they need to be covered, even if they are employed on a casual basis. The only time you would not need an account to cover these individuals is if you are paying an incorporated company or a person who already has their own WCB account.  If you hire only sporadic or intermittent contractors, such as farriers or truckers who only drop off or pick up loads, then coverage is not required.  You can call WCB in advance of hiring workers or contractors to help determine if you are required to open an account.


Who is responsible for covering contractors and subcontractors working on my farm, such as an electrician who fixes a motor, or a mechanic who comes to fix a tractor?
In most cases, the business that is paying the subcontractor for the service is responsible for their WCB coverage. However, some subcontractors may have their own WCB coverage or will be operating as corporations, in which case the farm owner would not be responsible for covering those workers. To quickly check whether a person or company has their own WCB coverage, visit the WCB website and request a clearance certificate: https://my.wcb.ab.ca/decc/Clearance/RequestClearance.aspx.

Coverage for business owners and directors

When a farm is incorporated and has WCB coverage for its employees, the corporation is protected from liability in the event of a workplace accident. Are the business owners also personally protected from liability?
Directors of a corporation are protected from liability only if they have purchased personal coverage for themselves through WCB. Shareholders are not protected from liability unless they have coverage as workers, either as waged, non-family members or through optional coverage.


How are premiums calculated for optional Personal Coverage for partners of a non-incorporated farm?
Business owners and directors have the option to purchase personal coverage for themselves. They can insure themselves at any amount between the minimum and maximum levels ($22,200 and $98,700 respectively for 2016). WCB calculates premiums based on the level of coverage chosen, and this coverage is assessed at the same rate as coverage for workers. In the event of an injury, the personal coverage holder would have to substantiate the amount they earn, and compensation would be based on the lesser of that amount or the amount of coverage purchased.

It’s important to note that the coverage amount chosen should generally reflect the individual’s employment earnings. WCB also offers a guaranteed coverage amount (GCA) in some industries, which is the level at which WCB would not require a personal coverage holder to substantiate their employment earnings in the event of a claim. In farming and ranching industries, the GCA is $30,000.

 
If a business owner is injured at work, in an operation with waged workers, how does the WCB process apply?
Business owners and directors are covered by WCB only if they choose to purchase optional personal coverage for themselves. This is true regardless of who they employ. If the owner does have coverage in place, they are entitled to the same benefits as any other covered worker if they are injured.

Do I need to report earnings for shareholders who are not directors?
A waged shareholder’s earnings need to be reported only if the shareholders of the corporation are not all members of the same family. A non-waged shareholder would always be optional to cover, just as with any other non-waged worker.

Premiums

Are there payment options available (i.e. quarterly), or is it one lump sum?
Employers may pay their premiums in one to six installments each year, depending on the amount of their annual premiums. Employers who register for pre-authorized debit withdrawals may qualify for monthly installments.


Are there ways for employers to get a premium reduction by getting involved in safety programs?
WCB offers a premium rebate opportunity through our Partnerships in Injury Reduction (PIR) program. Employers work with a certifying partner (safety/industry association) to achieve a Certificate of Recognition, and are then eligible for rebates through this program. For more information, visit http://www.wcb.ab.ca/pdfs/employers/EFS_Partnerships_in_injury_reduction.pdf.

Is there anything else I can do to reduce my rate?
The most effective way to lower your premiums over time is to effectively manage your claim costs. This means having a strong injury prevention program, along with effective practices that allow individuals to safely modify their job duties so they can work while they recover from their injury. These practices help employers manage their costs, and have been proven to help workers recover more quickly and effectively from their injuries.

Now that premiums are being collected, is there a way for the agriculture industry to access those funds to form a safety association, as is done in other provinces and here in Alberta in other industries?
A funded safety association should represent the interests of the employers and workers in a given industry. The decision to form an association is at the discretion of an industry’s employers, and WCB will support these efforts by administering a polling process to ensure all industry employers are notified of the application for funding, as well as to help determine if there is enough industry support to proceed.

In industries with safety associations, WCB collects a special levy in the premium rates charged to employers annually, and then gives that money to the association in the form of a grant.  The association, through its board of directors, determines the programs, services or initiatives that will be offered by the association.

Can we receive supporting information as to how WCB established the premiums for each agriculture sector? Has the fact that historical data on incidents per hours worked is limited, as farmers have not had to submit hours, been considered in establishing premiums?
Normally the data we use to produce rates is based on employer and claim information from Alberta. However, as these industries are new in 2016, we have had to rely on detailed information from BC, Manitoba and Ontario as well as other information from various provinces to set rates. We had limited data of our own available, however, we did have information from the voluntary farming accounts that were already open in 2015. The 2016 premium rates are a starting point for these industries, and will evolve as the employers in these industries start to produce their own statistically credible data that will ultimately drive their rates in the future.

How do rates in farming and ranching compare to other industries?
In 2016, the rates for farming and ranching industries range from $1.70 to $2.97 per $100 in insurable earnings. The rates for all employers in 2016 range from $0.14 to $5.73, with an average rate of $1.01.

A full list of WCB’s premium rates for all sectors can be found here: http://www.wcb.ab.ca/pdfs/employers/2016_rates_comparison_by_sector_and_industry.pdf

Is the ratio of premiums collected to pay outs comparable for agriculture to other industries?
The rate setting process begins by forecasting the total full-funded costs of claims occurring in a given rate year. These costs won’t be known until the end of the year, however this ratio will be comparable to other industries over time.

The methodology used for calculating rates in agricultural industries will be no different than in other industries. We aim to collect enough money in a given year to cover the total costs of all claims from that year for the entire life of those claims.  For example, the costs for some 2016 claims may continue to accrue for 50 or 60 years and we estimate these future liabilities to ensure we charge appropriate premiums.

Employers who registered accounts prior to 2016

Do employers who were registered with WCB prior to 2016 have to change anything on their accounts? Does the new legislation apply to them?
The same rules apply to all farming and ranching operations, regardless of whether they had an account with WCB prior to 2016. WCB has begun contacting all employers with existing accounts to ensure they are classified in the correct industry and have the appropriate coverage in place.

 
Can existing account holders continue to cover non-waged individuals or family members as they did prior to the new legislation?
Yes. Coverage for these individuals will remain in place, but farm owners can choose to amend or cancel this coverage at any time.

 
Coverage for family members

On my farm the business owners/shareholders are all family members - do I need to report the earnings of my children?
No. As long as it is a family-owned farm, family members are not required to have coverage, and these earnings would be reported only if you voluntarily elect to cover these individuals. If the farm is not family owned, then the wages of children should be included, as they would be covered as workers.


Can optional coverage be purchased for farm children under the age of 18?
Yes. WCB coverage is available regardless of the age of the worker. If the farm is family owned, the farm owner can purchase optional coverage for family members. If the farm is not family owned, children would be optional to cover if they do not earn a wage, but would require mandatory coverage if they do earn a wage.

Work-related injuries
Will my premiums increase if a claim is filed under my account?
It may. This depends on the full experience record of the farm. The impact of one claim will vary depending on the pricing program a farm is in, and the actual size of the claim. WCB has experience-based pricing programs that provide collective liability while ensuring individual employers are accountable for their own safety performance.

For small businesses that pay less than $5,000 per year in premiums, rate adjustments are capped at 5 per cent based on claims performance. For larger employers, these adjustments can increase depending on factors such as the size of the business. For detailed information on WCB’s pricing programs, visit http://www.wcb.ab.ca/pdfs/employers/pricing_16.pdf.

What are my responsibilities as an employer when a worker is injured?
Most importantly, you are responsible for ensuring the worker gets access to the immediate medical treatment they need. You, as the employer, are also responsible for paying the worker their full wage on the date of the accident, and for any transportation-related costs such as ambulance fees. If the injury requires medical attention beyond normal first aid, an Employer’s Report of Injury should be filed with WCB within 72 hours.

For claims that result in a worker not being able to return to their normal work duties the next day, you are responsible for working with WCB, the medical provider, and the injured worker to ensure a safe return to work.

How long does a claim take to be processed?
Claims are generally registered within 24 hours of receiving a report of injury. For claims where a worker will miss time from work, we aim to have wage replacement benefits issued within two weeks of the claim being established.


If I have a need for only one waged worker and he gets injured and can no longer do that job, am I required to retrain him for a farm job that I really don't need?
You are not required by WCB to retrain an injured worker, however, using modified duties to help a worker re-enter the workforce is the best way to help with recovery and minimize your claim costs. When you are unable to provide alternate employment for an employee who suffers an injury that results in permanent work restrictions, WCB will work with the employee to identify suitable employment and provide vocational benefits to help them return to work.


Given that WCB registration is not required until April 30, 2016, what happens if a waged worker is injured at work prior to the company registering an account with WCB? What happens if the injury occurs in May and the employer has still not registered an account?
Waged, non-family workers are protected for any work-related injuries on or after Jan.1, 2016, regardless of whether or not their employer has registered an account.

 

 

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