Raising coverage (issues)

The Workers Compensation Union Coalition (Sep. 30, 2013) has recently released a statement on universal coverage: “The time to expand Workers’ Compensation coverage for ALL Canadians is NOW”

“The group is calling upon each province to mirror the North West Territories by implementing workplace injury coverage for all of Canada’s workers.

CUPE 1750 President Harry Goslin of Ontario said, “The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has fallen behind the rest of Canada with the least amount of workplaces covered. Thirty (30) per cent of the workforce representing approximately two million workers is not covered under the Workplace Safety & Insurance Act (WSIA) making them the most vulnerable. Private day cares, private health care practices, banks, trusts and insurance companies are among the employers who are exempt from the Ontario WSIB, leaving those workers unprotected.” …” [read full  News release]

Additional reading:

  • Current comparative rates of coverage by province in the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada’s   “Scope of Coverage”
  • “Ontario labour, employer groups weigh in on new mandatory workers’ comp coverage”  / Linda Johnson  (Canadian Occupational Safety  16 Jan. 2013)

Australia’s compensation schemes currently cover 88% of the workforce; they do not cover the self employed, sole traders and independent contractors who need to take personal injury insurance through private sector insurance (source: Safe Work Australia. “Key Workers’ Compensation Information 2013″;  “Comparison of Workers’ Compensation Arrangements”  ch. 3]

  • Recent reforms, such as Queensland’s, have addressed coverage. While the May 2013 report of the Inquiry into the Operation of Queensland’s Workers Compensation Scheme reiterated a major concern was to ensure the principle of universal coverage and not exclude vulnerable workers, in July a narrower definition of “worker” came into effect meaning fewer independent contractors (especially in construction and transportation) will be required to be covered (“Businesses to benefit from Queensland changes to workers’ compensation coverage for contractors” – Mondaq, 16 June 2013). And in Sept. the government announced it was considering no longer covering journey and recess claims, despite the Inquiry’s recommendations [more].

While New Zealand provides universal coverage for personal injury (work- and non-work-related), there are a number of exclusions [Community Law Library]. Among disputed issues of coverage – injuries deemed to be age-related degenerative conditions rather than  work-related gradual process, disease or infection, eligible under the Act)

In the United StatesWorkers’ compensation : benefits, coverage, and costs 2011”  (National Academy of Social Insurance, Aug. 2013) reports that except for Texas and Oklahoma, coverage is effectively mandatory in all states, though with exclusions for specific types of employment (notably agriculture or domestic work).  97.2 % of all Unemployment Insurance–covered workers and wages were covered by workers’ compensation in 2011.

  • Meanwhile in 2011 the federal Dept of Labor began a crackdown on employers who misclassify employees  as independent contractors, enabling the employer to avoid paying into state programs such as workers’ compensation and denying workers access to these benefits.
  • In “Careful What You Wish For: Denying Worker’s Compensation for Undocumented Workers” / Charlie Domer (Workers’ Compensation blog, Sep. 26, 2013)  looks at the consequences, including large damages from lawsuits. The author also notes that “one of the underlying pillars of worker’s compensation is that the expense of workplace injuries (covered by insurance) should be placed on the employers who profit from the workers’ labors.”