More than 90% of workers who lose time from work because of a work injury get back to work at their pre-injury wages in less than a year. But the vast majority of those injuries are temporary. People need time to heal, they make a full recovery, they go back to their pre-injury employer and they get on with their lives.
Workers with permanent injuries who cannot return to their pre injury employment have very different experiences. They are eligible for Return to Work assistance from the WSIB but when they complete the program, they will be deemed or determined able to work in their new job field. Their compensation for lost earnings will be reduced by the amount people earn at jobs in that field.
WSIB statistics show that about 40% of those injured workers cannot get the job they were trained for, but their WSIB benefits are still cut as if they were working. Some of those fortunate enough to find employment are not able to sustain it and their WSIB benefits remain cut as if they were working.
Many are considered able to return to work as retail sales clerks, cashiers or other clerical skills. The WSIB reports that less than 50% are employed after their program, meaning that employment is probably not available, but the WSIB reduces their loss of earnings benefits as if they were fully employed.
This is the story behind Prof. Peri Ballantyne’s research findings that 46% of people with a recognized permanent impairment live in or near poverty, and 9% live in deep poverty.
When the ‘wage loss’ model of workers compensation was proposed by Prof. Paul Weiler in the 1980’s, he wanted a more precise method of compensation. That never happened. The problem with deeming and determining is that it presumes full employment when the reality in our society is that about 45% of people with disabilities are not able to get employment. The result is a spiral of unemployment, poverty, disability and deteriorating health and a trail of destroyed families and lives. This is not an acceptable result in a system that was developed to replace the courts as the arbiter of justice for injured workers.
Deeming has got to go.
- Download IWO Backgrounder: The Problem with Deeming (Feb. 2018)