Ronan O'Leary appointed as Fair Practices Commissioner

'Vast majority' of complaints against WSIB 'related to delays' says O'Leary

Ronan O'Leary appointed as Fair Practices Commissioner

The Board of Directors of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has officially appointed Ronan O'Leary as the new Fair Practices Commissioner. O'Leary, who has recently completed a six-month tenure as interim Commissioner, brings a wealth of experience in ombudsman roles and a clear vision for enhancing fairness in workplace insurance practices.

In his new role, O’Leary will steer the Fair Practices Commission, an entity that operates independently from the WSIB, ensuring that it remains a neutral and confidential resource for those affected by work-related injuries and illnesses. “I am dedicated to helping ensure the workplace insurance system is accountable and transparent and am honoured to receive this appointment,” stated O’Leary.

The Fair Practices Commission provides crucial oversight and a means for complaints about the WSIB’s services to be heard and addressed. It stands as an independent body designed to track complaint trends, identify systemic issues, and recommend improvements.

O’Leary's previous roles include significant stints at the Ombudsman of Ontario office before joining the Fair Practices Commission in 2021 as Deputy Commissioner. His experience is backed by a strong academic foundation with law degrees from University College Cork, Ireland, and accreditation from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.

Since its inception in 2003, the Fair Practices Commission has been a vital part of Ontario's workplace safety landscape. Its establishment was further solidified in 2016 when the position of the commissioner was enshrined in the Workplace Safety Insurance Act. Reflecting on the evolution of the commission, O’Leary notes, “The Fair Practices Commission was initially established by a resolution of the board of directors in December 2002, and then the first commissioner was appointed in 2003.”

As for the challenges ahead, O’Leary is focused on addressing delays and inefficiencies in how complaints are processed, particularly those relating to adjudication times and payments. “The vast majority of our complaints come from the worker side... related to delays in making decisions, delays in receiving payments, concerns about the return to work process, and staff behavior,” he explains.

Looking towards the future, O’Leary is optimistic about his impact, aiming to refine the systems to prevent issues before they necessitate complaints. “The best outcome for the people who contact us is that they don’t have to contact us in the first place,” he asserts, highlighting his proactive approach to addressing systemic issues.

O’Leary’s appointment comes at a time when transparency and quick resolution of issues are more critical than ever in maintaining fair practices within Ontario’s workplace safety insurance system. The Fair Practices Commission is expected to release an annual report next month.