How Ontario’s Workplace Insurance Favors Employers’ Interests Against Injured Workers

In 1914, workers gave up their right to sue employers in exchange for full and fair compensation for workplace injuries, for as long as their injuries last. The deal, which was a compromise, may be described as follows: full and fair compensation for injured workers in exchange for reasonable, dependable costs for employers who would collectively offset the reputational, legal, and financial risks of being sued. The promise was simple – full justice, no half measures.

During the century that followed there have been a number of changes following the findings of government commissions in 1932, 1950, 1967 and 1973. The late 1960s saw the rise of an injured workers’ movement characterized by social and political activism that addressed issues of a hostile and discriminatory Board administration and medical consultants who skirted responsibilities to injured workers, with calls for sorely-needed improvements to benefits and services for those who suffered permanent disabilities resulting from their workplace injuries.

In 1990, the system underwent further changes with a move away from the permanent lifetime pension model towards the formation of a ‘dual’ award system, which compensates a worker for loss of enjoyment of life, and then provides benefits for future loss of earnings. The changes also introduced the concept of “deeming” (also called “determining”). Deeming pretends that injured workers have phantom jobs – which they do not in fact have – and reduces their benefits by these imaginary wages, thereby only paying the injured worker the difference between what the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) simply guesses they should be making, compared to their actual pre-injury earnings.[1]

Since 1996, the workplace compensation system has seen a dramatic shift in how it treats injured workers. The system that was created to compensate injured workers from the lasting effects of workplace inc