Responding to the expansion and further entrenchment of experience rating in the proposed WSIB Rate Framework reforms, injured worker groups and their advocates have provided their objections and recommended alternatives in submissions to the ongoing Consultation
The proposed rate framework conceptualizes the injured worker as a ‘risk to the system’. Implementing such a framework will result in the absurdity of making the WSIB an institution which instead of protecting the worker, as intended, turns that worker into a risk from which the institution now seeks protection…” (ERWG)
The Experience Rating Working Group,composed of members of legal clinics, labour organizations,and injured worker groups, notes in its submission that the Framework will undoubtedly achieve the intent of lowering claim costs but raises the key question: how will this be achieved?
Ignoring the statutory purposes of experience rating under the Act and recommendations of the government’s own Expert Panel on Occupational Health and Safety and Arthur’s WSIB Funding Review report, the Framework contains no provision to recognize or reward employers’ health and safety improvements. With premium rates still tied to claims costs through the proposed risk-adjusted premium bands and the lack of provisions in the Framework to address abuses, the incentive remains for employers to reduce costs through adversarial claims management practices such as discouraging claims reporting, challenging benefit entitlements and managing workers out of employment through dubious return to work programs. The examples of long latency occupational disease, fatal claims and temporary agency workers illustrate starkly the perils of using claims cost-based premium adjustments and the disconnect with actual health and safety.
In essence, the new framework, in adopting claims costs as the metric for setting premium rates, proposes to use experience rating for insurance equity purposes. Based on a conception of risk that has been narrowly defined as the risk of costing money to the system, this rate setting model is inconsistent with the broader purposes of the legislation, which are to promote health and safety, to facilitate return to work, and to provide compensation and other benefits to workers.
It is also contrary to the fundamental principles of Ontario’s workers’ compensation: adjusting premium rates based on claims experience re-introduces fault into the system, and undermines the collective liability of employers by tying individual employer costs with individual employer claims records.
While recommending the WSIB dismantle current experience rating programs and abandon claims costs as a metric of risk, the Working Group urges further exploration of alternative approaches and supports the Framework’s proposed use of NAICS categories for classification with its potential for expanding coverage.
Other recent submissions to the Rate Framework Consultation:
- Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups. 2015, Oct. 1. From Experience Rating to Rating Experience: ONIWG submission
- Bright Lights Injured Workers’ Group. 2015, Oct. 1. Submission on the Rate Framework