Injured workers 4 times more likely to be poor: Report

45 per cent of injured workers in Ontario aren't receiving benefits from workers' compensation

Many injured workers in Ontario live in poverty and rely on food banks and welfare, according to a new report.

The Impacts of Workplace Injury, a survey of more than 200 injured workers in Ontario by the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups, found injured workers are four times more likely to live in poverty.

The survey also found high rates of depression and loss of housing among injured workers.

"They expected the workers’ compensation system would take care of them. We have found that for too many, the system has left them in poverty and despair," said Peter Page, president of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups.

The report found 45 per cent of injured workers aren't receiving any benefits from the workers' compensation board. Many people with permanent disabilities fall through the cracks in the workers' compensation system and end up on social assistance, said Marion Endicott, a community legal worker with Injured Workers' Consultants Community Legal Clinic.

"In the meantime, the board has reduced the rates for employers by about 25 per cent since 1996 and still protects them from being sued. Employers are getting a free ride while the cost of injuries and disease is passed on to the government and society, and to the injured workers themselves," said Endicott.

The workers’ compensation system is based on a "historic compromise" in 1915 where injured workers gave up the right to sue their employers in exchange for secure compensation, said McMaster University professor Robert Storey.

"Unfortunately for injured workers, the findings in this study suggest that in many cases we have turned the clock back," said Storey.

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