Ask the Experts: Health and safety for SMEs

Last updated 07:47 14/07/2014

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Q: An increasing number of customers require my business to be ACC accredited. While accreditation could reduce my ACC levies, is it worth my while committing already stretched resources to gain and maintain accreditation?

A: The ACC Accredited Employer Programme (AEP) allows for adjustments to reduce your levies in exchange for taking responsibility for your employees' work injury claims. The levies can be reduced by up to 90 per cent. But in return for this discount, full responsibility for the costs and management of workplace injuries is assumed by the employer.

Joining the programme effectively means you agree to act on behalf of ACC for your employee's work- related injuries which includes the weekly compensation for loss of earnings for the period agreed in the AEP contract with ACC.

It's better suited for large employers whose levies exceed $150,000 a year. Employers must renew their accreditation annually.

While the AEP requires significant commitment and resources, there are more suitable options for SMEs that recognise the safer workplaces and reduce workplace levies without the added risk of the AEP. These include: The Workplace Safety Discount (WSD) aimed at the self-employed or businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The admission criteria include providing documents of your health and safety practices followed by an audit by an ACC- approved auditor. A discount of 10 per cent can be rewarded for three years with declarations at the end of year one and two to confirm eligibility still exists.

The Workplace Safety Management Practices (WSMP) - aimed at larger businesses with more than 20 employees. The process is similar to the WSD, requiring a review of your health and safety systems followed by an audit which usually takes about a day to complete. The WSMP allows for a discount of 10 per cent, 15 per cent or 20 per cent and applies for a 24-month period.

While accreditation is a great way to position your business as an exemplar of good practice in your market, it's not really suited for SMEs and perhaps alternative forms such as the WSD and WSMP are better options.

Hayley Luxton is a chartered accountant with BDO Waikato

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- The Dominion Post

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