Audit suggested shortening appeal timelines for injured workers
The Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) has raised its voice against the Workplace Safety Insurance Board's (WSIB) consultation process on KPMG's "Value for Money Audit," which examined the Board's Dispute Resolution and Appeals process. The proposed changes from the audit have sparked concerns among ONIWG and other labor groups, as they believe it could negatively impact injured workers' ability to appeal their claims.
Wayne Harris, vice-president of ONIWG, expressed discontent with the direction the WSIB is taking. "As it stands, KPMG's recommendations would take a sledgehammer to the appeal rights of injured workers by introducing unnecessary time limits that will make the appeals process even more confusing and bureaucratic. In short, the proposed changes will lead to fewer injured workers appealing their WSIB claims, which will result in the Board saving a buck. As injured workers, we know that the appeals process provides us a shot at receiving fair decisions following injury and/or illness."
The ONIWG demands the WSIB reevaluates and democratizes its consultation process on the audit's recommendations, claiming the time frame provided for written submissions and feedback was insufficient. Stakeholders, including injured workers, were given 6 weeks to respond to the sweeping changes proposed by the audit, which could significantly affect their appeal rights.
Janet Paterson, president of ONIWG, outlined three specific changes the group seeks to ensure a transparent and fair consultation process. She asserts, "the deadline to make written submissions should be extended by 6 months, so everyone has the necessary amount of time to develop their responses... All injured workers who could be impacted by the proposed changes should be notified by the WSIB to ensure that they have an opportunity to respond."
The WSIB issued a statement to Canadian Occupational Safety defending its intentions, saying its goal is to simplify and expedite the dispute resolution process for claimants. They maintain the proposed changes aim to meet the needs and expectations of the people they are here to help.
"We want to do everything possible to make it simple, easy, and faster for people to resolve a dispute on their claim without having to go through a lengthy appeals process," the WSIB spokesperson commented.
Regarding the consultation process, the WSIB highlighted its efforts to include stakeholder input, having conducted a written public consultation on the recommendations of the value-for-money audit from June 8 to July 21, 2023. The Board received 47 submissions during this period.
The WSIB further addressed ONIWG's involvement, noting that the group has been engaged in the consultation process for over a year, being invited to provide feedback during both the KPMG audit and the WSIB public consultation.
"All of the valuable feedback received will be carefully reviewed and considered. Stakeholder submissions received will be posted on this page in September," the WSIB spokesperson stated.
While ONIWG raises concerns over the potential impact on injured workers' appeal rights, the WSIB clarified the appeals system comprises multiple stages, including an option for claimants to appeal to the independent Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) if they disagree with a WSIB appeals decision.
The tension between ONIWG and the WSIB underscores the importance of constructive dialogue and collaboration when addressing issues that affect stakeholders significantly. The process of improving the appeals system while safeguarding the rights of injured workers demands a transparent and inclusive approach, where all voices are heard and considered.