The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board recently posted on their website how they make decisions on COVID-19 claims: that is, on a case-by-case basis. Today the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) sent a letter to Premier Ford calling on the government to include by regulation COVID-19 in the Schedule 4 list of occupational diseases having an ‘irrebuttable’ presumption of work-relatedness (provided that conditions of the regulation are met). They ask that this same principle be applied to workers serving the public, including healthcare and first response, but also retail, transit etc. to ensure “workers’ compensation benefits flow automatically, without all the hurdles in the current WSIB approach, maximizing the safety and well-being for not only the worker but their family as well …” ONIWG also requests an emergency fund for outreach in assisting injured workers during the pandemic. [read full letter]
This letter follows a March 24 letter to WSIB President and CEO Tom Teahen. In drawing his attention to the challenges that injured workers in Ontario are facing in regards to social distancing and COVID-19, ONIWG stands firmly with correspondence he has received from the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, the IAVGO Community Legal Clinic and Alec Farquhar’s proposal for decisive action by the Ontario’s workers’ compensation system. The WSIB has reported that it is working closely with their health care partners, who are rightly prioritizing response to COVID-19, and exploring a virtual care model to support injured people in their recovery and return to work throughout the duration of this crisis.
The WSIB must act quickly
However given the pace that COVID-19 attacks the body, the WSIB must act quickly to ensure the worker has the best opportunity to survive and to recover. Financial stress should not be forced upon the worker and must be covered by the WSIB.
In a spirit of solidarity, all levels of the government are committing to help all Canadians to go through this crisis. ONIWG is calling on the Board to come to the fullest support of injured workers in this hour of need by:
- ensuring that all workers who have been previously injured or made sick in the workplace, or those who will face quarantine and/or possible permanent illness from the COVID-19, will receive timely benefits, whether medical or financial.
- respecting the right for injured workers to travel by methods respecting social distancing and to ensure that their earnings are not negatively impacted when their WSIB treatment programs are closed or affected by COVID-19.
- putting all deeming decisions on hold, leaving workers on full LOE until COVID-19 is no longer a factor; and, as there is no work available for them now due to coronavirus, review all deeming decisions retroactively and return these injured workers with permanent impairments who have wage loss to full LOE (loss of earnings) benefits.
- contacting every injured worker to let them know how COVID-19 is affecting the WSIB and them.
ONIWG asks the President for a meeting to discuss these proposals and other ways that injured workers should be supported now during this pandemic.
[read full letter]
- Lippel, Katherine. 2020 Mar. 19. “More Action Urgently Needed to Ensure No One is Left Behind in COVID-19 Crisis.” Peterborough Examiner
- Mojtahedzadeh, Sara. 2020 Mar. 19. “Work Refusals Spike as Fear of COVID-19 Exposure at Work On the Rise.” Toronto Star
- Ontario Federation of Labour. COVID-19 Information (resources)