On its website, the WSIB website is highlighting the key finding of a recently published Institute for Work & Health study (Final Report on Work Injury and Poverty: Investigating Prevalence across Programs and Over Time ) as being that “there is no consistent difference in the prevalence of poverty between permanently impaired injured workers and able bodied workers”. In a letter to the WSIB Chair (Sep. 2), the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups challenges the Board’s characterization of the study.
In fact, the IWH study reports injured workers to have higher levels of poverty than their uninjured equivalents under the FEL/NEL system than the previous pension system, and even more under the current LOE benefit system. Moreover, injured worker poverty levels increase as the time post-injury increases. Drawing its data from the Longitudinal Administrative Database, the study excludes those who don’t file taxes – primarily very low-income persons, including injured workers.
As the study uses data for workers injured up to 1998 (that is, before the major changes in WSIB practices of recent years), ONIWG suggests it does not accurately reflect experiences of injured workers today. A 2015 study by Ballantyne et al (Poverty Status of Workers’ Compensation Claimants with Permanent Impairments) found injured worker poverty levels to be as high as 26%, as compared to 14% in the general population.
Injured worker poverty exists and is a serious problem. ONIWG calls on the Board to commit to a plan that addresses – rather than downplays – the devastating financial effects of permanent impairments.