Ontario police chiefs calling for changes to WSIB, insurance act
A workers’ group is voicing its concern over resolutions released by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) pertaining to changes to workers’ compensation.
In particular, the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) is concerned about proposed changes to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) system and to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) relating to Bill 163, Supporting Ontario's First Responders Act (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), 2016.
OACP claims that the cost of maintaining the WSIB system by employers is becoming “fiscally prohibitive” and “a burden on taxpayers due to escalating costs and delays in the adjudication and appeals system”, and that “this is resulting in employees being subjected to increased and unnecessary stress and delayed return-to-work.”
But the PAO says OACP's proposals undo years of work to break down the stigma that exists around mental health injuries and illness, and they perpetuate the “incredulous idea that people with mental illness should just 'suck it up' and return to work.”
OACP’s resolutions include the following proposals:
- Establish that a person receiving WSIB loss of earnings (LOE) (income replacement) benefits cannot receive more net income than the set income replacement.
- Establish that a worker who reaches eligibility for a full, unreduced pension will no longer be entitled to LOE benefits
- Establish that a worker who has reached MMR, but is unable to be reasonably accommodated by the employer due to limitations and restrictions, is deemed to have the employment severed.
- Completely overhaul the Caser Management System within this injury class to include mandatory return to work (RTW) services and occupational therapists in every RTW case.
- Align payment of WSIB income replacement benefits with industry standard long-term disability plans for case management and duration.
- Establish a formal process that allows the employer to bring an objection forward at the onset of the claim and for a summary hearing process by which employers may make submissions regarding the presumptive entitlement to benefits for PTSD claims
More harm than good
PAO is challenging the proposed changes, saying that the OACP's resolutions, if acted upon, would do significantly more harm than good to the mental health and wellness of Ontario's police personnel.
"The idea that the income replacement benefit should be reduced to incentivize members who are off work with medically-diagnosed illnesses or injuries to return more expeditiously is ludicrous and repulsive," says Mark Baxter, PAO president.
"We don't ask someone to remove a cast from a broken leg before it's healed, why would we do the same for an injury that is not physically 'visible?' How is it better for the community to have a police officer who is suffering from a diagnosed mental illness forced back to work because they can't afford to take the time off to seek proper treatment and get well?" says Baxter.