Letter to WSIB President urges a fair approach to the review of LOE benefits so that minimum wage increases are not used to reduce the benefits of unemployed injured workers who have been “deemed“.
President & CEO
200 Front Street
Toronto, ON M5V 311
Dear Mr. Bell,
Re: Impact of Minimum Wage Increase on Injured Workers’ Benefits
On November 2, 2021, the Ontario government announced that the minimum wage will be increased to $15.00/hr on January 1,2022. We would like to meet with you to consider the unintended consequences that arise for injured workers as the result of hikes to the minimum wage.
Fairness requires that minimum wage increases should not be used to reduce the benefits of unemployed injured workers who are “deemed”/”determined” to have earnings from jobs they do not have and are not available to them. For example, with the most recent change, injured workers who are not employed but deemed as servers or bartenders, whose rate will increase over $2.00 per hour, will experience an annual reduction of LOE benefits in the thousands of dollars.
The Government and the WSIB did not address our concerns when the minimum wage was hiked from $11.40/hr in 2017 to $14.00/hr in 2018, which as a result, led to deemed workers losing thousands of dollars a year for jobs that they did not have. Many of these individuals sustained dramatic reductions in their standards of living and had no recourse but to seek financial assistance from other inadequate social programs to stay afloat.
The WSIB has discretion as to how it will adjust an injured worker’s benefits prior to the 72 month lock in. Your announcement regarding the October 1, 2021 change says this will be done at the annual review. We would like to discuss a fair approach to this review. When the minimum wage was increased in 2018 the WSIB acknowledged the unfairness for the unemployed and committed to a maximum of 10% a year phasing in of the reduction of benefits. For a permanently disabled worker who is not employed, who has not refused an offer work in that field and has no reasonable prospects for employment in the field, a 10% annual reduction in income support is still unfair in a time of government lockdowns, widespread business closures and skyrocketing unemployment rates. Other government programs such as Employment Insurance were modified to ensure more workers would be eligible based on the unprecedented pandemic.
The Board can exercise its discretion in a way that protects rather than harms injured workers, in accordance with the foundational principles of the workers’ compensation system and your obligations under the Act. Workers in Ontario deserve better. The WSIB can choose not to use minimum wage rate changes to adjust the determined earnings of a worker who is not employed unless that worker has turned down an offer of suitable work. This is known as the “tangible indication test,” and it was proposed as the standard for deeming when the system was first introduced by Professor Weiler.
We would like to urgently meet to discuss a fair approach to the review of LOE benefits in advance of the minimum wage increase.
INJURED WORKERS’ COMMUNITY LEGAL CLINIC
Armando Fatigati, Vice President Claims Management, WSIB
Honourable Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training, and Skills Development