Ontario’s draft Benefit Policies, proposed following the Jim Thomas review, have all been the subject of strong and sustained protest by injured workers, the legal community, labour and doctors, who call for their withdrawal. The policies (covering pre-existing conditions, aggravation basis, recurrences, permanent impairment and work disruption) are found to be fundamentally flawed and to disregard 100 years of legal and policy development. A direct attack on Meredith Principles, these policies – some already being implemented – will severely restrict injured workers’ entitlement to benefits and shift costs to social assistance.
The Tribunal has a well-understood, longstanding practice of applying the legal causation principle of “significant contributing factor” and the thin-skull rule [i.e. that the system must take workers as it finds them] to determine the core question of whether and to what extent a worker’s loss is caused by a workplace injury or disease. The draft policy for pre-existing conditions eliminates both of these and “asserts that the mere presence of even an asymptomatic pre-existing condition is evidence that an injury is not work-related”.. (Bird, Green, Lipes, Newhouse). Sir William Meredith specifically rejected the notion of reducing compensation based on speculative pre-existing conditions.
Response to these policies is coming from across the province, heard in submissions, injured workers’ meetings, Day of Mourning speeches, pickets outside the Ministry of Labour, front-page media and on voters’ doorsteps.
“There is no crisis in claims trends at the WSIB. The WSIB is already accepting the lowest number of claims it has in 50 years. Injured worker are already struggling. It is unfair and unnecessary to further curtail workers’ entitlement to benefits.
Proceeding to implement the draft policies will throw the system into disarray, erode trust in the WSIB and seriously damage relations with worker stakeholders. The draft policies,
if adopted, will be the subject of legal challenges for many years. In addition to creating enormous appeal backlogs at the WSIB and WSIAT, this will throw our system into a prolonged and unnecessary environment of uncertainty, delay and polarization.” (Office of the Worker Adviser)
- “Proposed WSIB changes will hurt workers, advocates say: Observers claim workers’ comp is already using pre-existing condition findings to unfairly cut payouts to injured workers”. (Toronto Star, May 5, 2014)
- Member statement in the Ontario Legislature (Monique Taylor, May 1, 2014)
- Submissions on WSIB Draft Benefits Policies (Injured Workers Consultants Community Legal Clinic, April 30, 2014) [pdf]
- WSIB Benefits Policy Review 2014 submissions (Ontario. Office of the Worker Adviser, April 30, 2014) [pdf]
- Letter to the Premier Re Stopping the WSIB Benefits Policies scandal (Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, April 4, 2014) [pdf]
- Letter to the Premier re WSIB Draft Benefits Policies (Peter Bird, Michael Green, Ellen Lipes, Gary Newhouse, March 14, 2014) [pdf]