What happens to people who are injured at work? Most of the time, workers heal and they return to their regular jobs and lives. But what about those workers who don’t fully recover? Some of those people are looked after by workers’ compensation, as they should be. But many are not. By WSIB’s own statistics, almost half of permanently injured workers have neither jobs nor workers’ compensation benefits.
Using documents acquired from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) by a series of Freedom of Information requests, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONWIG) has published a report called Phantom Jobs & Empty Pockets: What really happens to workers with work acquired disabilities, which shows that – by WSIB’s own numbers – injured workers are being forced into poverty by a practice called “deeming”. Deeming is when the WSIB pretends an injured worker has a job that they do not have, and cuts their benefits as a result.
Deeming by the numbers
- WSIB benefits are not paid by taxpayers, but rather, by premiums charged to employers. When an injured worker’s benefits are cut they can end up on welfare. Social assistance payments to injured workers cost Ontario taxpayers at least $48 million per year – costs that should be covered by standard employer contributions.
- Deeming disproportionally affects women, poor people, low-skilled workers, those with language barriers, older workers, and Ontarians with disabilities. The most vulnerable workers in the system are most at risk of being left without benefits and unable to find work.
- Only 27% of workers with English language barriers secured employment after completing work transition, but most are deemed and have their benefits cut.
- Only half (53%) of workers who are referred to work transition services for assistance in returning to work are actually offered and complete plans. As far as we know, the WSIB doesn’t even bother tracking what happens to the 47% who are not given retraining or who are unable to finish their programs.
- Only 17% of workers who were told they could be cashiers were able to find jobs, and only 49% of workers designated as customer service agents were able to secure work in their field. Yet all of them have their benefits cut.
- If you endure a permanent injury at work, you have a 46% chance of spending your life in poverty.
Despite the enormous hardship caused by deeming, the Government of Ontario would only have to change one sentence of the law to fix the problem.
Freedom of Information documents cited in the report:
- Document 1: Employable Analysis Report
- Document 2: WT Plan and Assessment Survey Report
- Document 3: Employable Outcome Analysis
- Document 4: Employable Outcome Analysis Update Summary
- Document 5: Review of ESL Programs in WT
- Document 6: Return to Work Program Overview
- Document 7: Ontario Works and ODSP Average Monthly Cases, Cases in Receipt of WSIB and Cases with a WSIB Assignment