On March 8th, the Minister of Labour announced to the Toronto Star that the province would make a small but significant change to the way employers are punished when a worker gets injured.
The change – which injured workers and their advocates have been demanding for years – will no longer allow employers who hire workers through a temp agency to dodge responsibility when someone is injured at their workplace.
It works like this: When an injury takes place during the course of employment in Ontario, the worker should be entitled to wage-loss and healthcare benefits from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). These WSIB benefits funded by premiums employers pay on a percentage of their total payroll. Because of a flawed system of surcharges and rebates called “experience rating,” when workers get injured, the percentage of their payroll that the company must pay the WSIB typically goes up, increasing their cost of doing business. However, if the employee who gets injured is hired through a temp-agency, the extra costs are assigned to the agency – often at a lower overall percentage than the employer would face if they injured a permanent employee.
Advocates have long pointed out that this creates a financial incentive for employers to ‘farm-out’ unsafe work to temp workers, who are often making less money, and are typically from more marginalized groups than their fully employed counterparts. Some industrial companies – as The Star reported in September of 2017 – are essentially staffed entirely by a non-permanent workforce that lacks any coherent form of safety training. There is little incentive for an employer to provide a safe workplace if the drawbacks of injuring your employees are easily offloaded to another company entirely.
According to the Minister of Labour, however, the government will now change the law so that employers themselves bear the increased costs of injuring their workers. While much still need to be done to remove barriers to safe work for everyone, there is hope that these new changes will at least contribute to a change the culture of temp agency work in Ontario.
The tireless efforts of workers’ rights activists, along with the ground-breaking investigative journalism of Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto Star, has led to this important change.
With an election approaching and Ontarians facing some stark choices, it is as important as ever that injured workers and their allies fight for safe workplaces, and compensation as long as their injury lasts. You can keep up to date on the best ways to join the fight by signing up for the “Workers Comp Is A Right” email list.
- Hear an interview on CBC’s Metro Morning with Sara Mojtehedzeh, the journalist who originally broke this story