Phantom wage for a phantom job…What if your injury has left you with a permanent injury that prevents you from returning to your former job? If you are unable to find a suitable job, the Workers’ Compensation Board (WSIB) will “deem” (pretend) you have a job. The Board can then reduce or eliminate your benefits by deeming you to be receiving the wages from a job that you do not have and have no real hope of getting … especially when the current employment rate for workers with disabilities is 49% (2012 Canadian Survey on Disability).
And when the minimum wage is increased, the WSIB is able to deem workers at a high minimum wage as well – and reduce their benefits accordingly. Willy Noiles, president of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, explains to the Standing Committee considering Bill 148 (July 19, 2017) why deeming must be changed if the proposed increase in the minimum wage is not to further harm injured workers:
Deeming or dreaming?
Most Ontarians are not aware of how we treat injured workers who have a permanent disability. When legislation in 1990 ended the system of life-long pensions for life-long disability, the government claimed it would be better for injured workers as compensation would now be based on their “real-life situation”. But instead of looking at what the injured worker is actually able to earn in suitable and available employment, the Board deems (or dreams) most injured workers to have returned to full time well-paid employment after their injury, regardless of the worker’s actual reality. Many low wage earners end up with little or no compensation and no retraining.
Although Labour Minister Steve Peters introduced changes in Bill 187 (2007) that he said would eliminate deeming, the WSIB has in fact since expanded deeming by inventing the concept of “underemployment”. This means that even if a worker can find a job in the field he or she has been retrained for, the Board can still ignore their actual wages and deem them to be earning more than they actually do, if it thinks there is higher paying work out there. The 72-month “lock-in” provides some protection by accepting that, after 6 years of permanent disability, the injured worker’s earning situation is not likely to improve and so at that point benefits will no longer be reviewed. However in practice that too is now being targeted to reduce the costs of long duration claims.
Contributing to worker poverty
Under deeming, injured workers unable to get a job and unable to live on their compensation benefits are being forced onto social assistance in increasing numbers because their workers’ compensation benefits are below the welfare line.
- Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups. 2017 Sep. 11. We Demand: No Cuts Based on Phantom Jobs (Workers’ Comp Is a Right campaign fact sheet and chart)
- Injured Workers’ Consultants. 2017 Jul. 21. Submission re Bill 148, “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017.”
- IWO Backgrounder. 2017 Jun. Minimum Wage and Deeming.
- IWO Fact sheet. 2017. Injured Workers are Part of the Fight for $15 and Fairness.
- Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers’ Support Group. 2013 Oct. 19 “Minimum Wage Discussion in Thunder Bay.” NetNewsledger.com
- Injured Workers’ Consultants. 2007 Nov. 7. Deeming Adds Insult to Injury: Submission to the WSIB on Bill 187 Interim Policies
- Robert Storey. 2007. Deeming – It’s Just Wrong Toronto: Bancroft Institute. (IWHP bulletin, no. 4)