Workers' compensation in Nova Scotia

The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCB) oversees the implementation and application of the Workers' Compensation Act and the Firefighters' Compensation Regulations.

The majority of costs incurred to the WCB system go to compensate and rehabilitate injured workers. These costs are covered only by employers (who entirely fund the system through premiums) and are largely based on two things:

  1. How many people get injured,
  2. When an employee becomes injured, how long they are off the job.

The most effective way to control your costs is to prevent accidents before they happen. And if they do happen, take every measure possible to encourage the employee to return to work in as safe and timely a manner as possible.

Does my business need to have WCB coverage?

Generally, registration is mandatory if you are an employer that conducts business in a mandatory industry and you have three or more workers one time. Employers in mandatory industries are required to register within 10 days of hiring the third worker.

A worker is anyone that is: 

  • permanent, casual, full-time, and part-time,
  • an officer of the company,
  • a sub-contractor that works in a mandatory industry and their workers
  • family members of proprietors, partners, officers and directors of the company. 

Sole proprietors are not covered and do not count in the number of workers. Voluntary coverage is available for proprietors. 

Partners of a partnership are not covered and do not count in the number of workers. Voluntary coverage is available under Special Protection. 

What is special protection? 

Special Protection coverage is available for proprietors and partners of a business. If a proprietor or partner obtains Special Protection, they must cover any workers they hire, and the three person rule no longer applies.

Special Protection coverage is available from a minimum of $10,200 per year up to the maximum assessable earnings figure confirmed by WCB at the beginning of each year. The coverage is renewable every year and becomes effective when both the application and payment are received by WCB Nova Scotia.

What is voluntary registration?

Employers who are not in a mandatory industry and required to register with WCB may do so on a voluntary basis. This is referred to as voluntary coverage. Once registered, the employer is subject to the same rights and responsibilities as those employers for whom it is mandatory to register. 

How do I register my business with WCB?

You must complete an Employer Application Form. This can be done online, or if you are not able to do it online, you can register by mail or fax by calling WCB (1-800-870-3331) to get a paper copy of the registration form. 

How much will workers’ compensation cost my business?

Premiums vary widely based on industry classification. Over time, businesses also get an “experience rating” which is a discount for workplaces with lower-than-average accident rates, or an additional premium for higher-than-average accident rates. WCB publishes their rates annually. Premiums are based on the rate per $100 of payroll. 

Can I have more than one classification for my business?

Generally, employees within the same organization are subject to the same classification across the company. Since rates are set based on industry codes, all staff attract the same rates regardless of position (e.g., a sawmill operator would attract the same rates as the corresponding salesperson, even though their risk of serious injury may be significantly different).

In rare exception, a business can seek to have multiple classification codes, but there are specific conditions that must be satisfied. Essentially, it must be shown that each ‘part’ of the business is self-sufficient (can stand on its own) and that it makes up a significant portion of the overall business. 

How can I reduce my premiums?

  • Ensure that you are classified properly. WCB classifies businesses based on their primary business activities. There are many different industry codes that attract different rates. While classification is generally done correctly, there is the odd circumstance in which a business has been misclassified. It is important to remember while drawing attention to one’s classification, that there is always the potential to be reclassified into a higher rate-paying category, so caution should be exercised.
  • Offer practical, relevant safety training to all staff on an ongoing basis. Disciplinary measures for staff that do not follow established safety procedures is encouraged. Please visit the Member section on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).
  • Work closely with WCB staff when a case arises. No employer wants to ever see a worker get injured on the job, but if a workplace accident occurs, it should be dealt with immediately. Employers need to be aware of their reporting requirements to WCB when an accident occurs and ensure that all details are provided.
  • Work with the employee, case manager and with others in your business or industry to put in place a safe and early return-to-work policy for an employee who has been injured. Bringing back employees swiftly and safely will not only save your business in ongoing claims costs, but research has shown it is in the best interest of the employee, too. The longer they remain off the job, the more difficult it becomes to return and the greater impact it has on their life. Even if the employee cannot return immediately to their previous role, work with the case manager to find a role they can safely fulfill – it will be cost-effective for your business and speed up the recovery process for your employee. CFIB members can access a Return-to-Work Package in the Member Portal

Are independent contractors covered?

An independent contractor may not be eligible for mandatory coverage with WCB. If they do not have voluntary coverage, then they will be considered your worker for the purpose of workers’ compensation insurance. 

What is the Office of the Employer Advisor (OEA)?

The OEA assists Nova Scotia employers in matters concerning workers' compensation through communication, consultation, and education. 

Employers looking for information on WCB assessments, workplace safety, claims management, and other employer obligations related to WCB are encouraged to contact the OEA. The services are free of charge and completely confidential. They can be reached at 902-401-8490 or by e-mail at 

History of Workers' Compensation

Workers' compensation in Canada had its beginnings in the province of Ontario. In 1910, Mr. Justice William Meredith was appointed to a Royal Commission to study workers' compensation. His final report, known as the Meredith Report, was produced in 1913.

The Meredith Report outlined a trade-off in which workers relinquish their right to sue in exchange for compensation benefits. Meredith advocated for no-fault insurance, collective liability, independent administration, and exclusive jurisdiction. The system exists at arms-length from the government and is shielded from political influence, allowing only limited powers to the Minister responsible. 

More information on the history of workers’ compensation is available from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada