Deadline nears to set up workers’ compensation account

Paid workers injured on the job are covered under the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act

RED DEER — The deadline is approaching for Alberta farmers and ranchers to set up an account with the Workers’ Compensation Board.

The deadline is April 30 and may be set up online, by telephone or by mail, said Erin McFadden of WCB.

This is new territory for farmers and the board because agriculture was exempt before the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act was passed in December.

“This is the first time in decades we have brought a new industry into the WCB,” McFadden told the Alberta Turkey Producers annual meeting in Red Deer March 1.

Bill 6 requires paid farm and ranch employees to be protected by workers’ compensation, labour relations, occupational health and safety and employment standards.

WCB is not a government department and is not part of the public consultations coming up later this month.

Family members are exempt from the legislation, but coverage may be bought voluntarily. Farm employers may also obtain personal coverage.

Paid workers who are injured on the job are covered as of Jan.1, whether an account has been set up or not.

Non-wage workers and family members are not covered until the account is formally set up.

About 1,400 to 1,500 farmers al-ready had accounts, so they had coverage before Jan. 1.

Employers fund WCB to support employees who are hurt on the job. Employees give up the right to sue.

Annual premiums are based from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

Agriculture rates have been set up using information from farmers who already carry coverage as well as premium levels from other jurisdictions.

The rates will be stable for 2016-17 but could go up or down after that, depending on the number of claims.

“If there are a lot of claims and a lot of costs than we anticipated, then the rates could go up,” she said.

The premiums for agriculture range from $1.70 to $2.97 for every $100 of insurable earnings.

The various agriculture sectors have been grouped into four categories: large animals, small animals, crops and greenhouses.

The rate is $2.97 for every $100 of payroll for those with large animals and $1.75 for poultry producers.

Employers are divided into two groups: those who pay less than $5,000 in premiums and those who pay more.

Large employers’ rates can be adjusted up to a 40 percent surcharge or down to a 40 percent discount, depending on how well an operation does in terms of injuries.

Surcharges may be even higher for employers who sustain long-term performance issues with many injuries. Some could also receive sizable discounts if they remain accident free.

For more information, phone toll free at 866-922-9221 or visit www.wcb.ab.ca/.

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