Real-life RTW experience is not tracked
The problem is that the WSIB doesn’t actually track the return to work experience of injured workers – whether employment is actually available to the injured worker? or what sort of employment or wages they are able to obtain, if any?
As IWC’s “Submission to the AODA Legislative Review” (2014) details, there was no dispute that, at least until recently, the numbers were shocking. Studies done under prior WCB/WSIB vocational rehabilitation schemes found unemployment of injured workers with permanent disabilities was about 75%. The WSIB figures claimed an “employed rate” between 36% and 41%.
According to the WSIB, under the most recent “Work Re-integration” scheme, nearly 92% of injured workers with lost time claims return to their full pre-accident earnings within a year of their injury. But the WSIB doesn’t collect data on what really happens with their return to work experience.
It doesn’t have to, because of the practice of deeming.
When an injured worker approaches the “usual healing time” for their injury, they will be informed by letter that they are expected to be able to return to their old job by a certain date and benefits for loss of earnings will cease. On the WSIB’s books, that is another injured worker back to pre-accident earnings, case closed. There is no doubt that 92% of injured workers with lost time claims are deemed able to return to their full pre-accident earnings within a year of their injury. Whether the injured worker ever gets back to work is irrelevant….
Barriers to employment
- Labour market challenges – In economic slowdowns, injured workers are particularly vulnerable. The current growth of a ‘just-in-time’ workforce relying more and more on part-time and temporary work reduces employment opportunities – and heightens risk of on-the-job injury
- Deeming – which lets the Board off the hook from its obligation to help injured workers return to gainful work
- Misconceptions about workers with disabilities – according to the “2012 Canadian Survey on Disability”, the employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 with disabilities was 49% in 2011, compared with 79% for Canadians without a disability. A 2013 BMO Financial Group survey found almost 70% of Canadian small business owners said they have never hired a person with either a visible or non-visible disability. Many employers mistakenly believe injured workers and other workers with disabilities have greater absentee rates and bring high accommodation costs. As Lieutenant Governor David Onley pointed out, recent studies show the opposite – these workers are more reliable, more productive.