Did you know that if you are an employee in Ontario and you are injured at work, in many cases you are entitled to either modified work or financial compensation?
When you have any kind of workplace injury, there are forms to fill out by both the worker and the employer. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) then makes a decision about whether to allow the claim.
It is against the law for an employer to punish a worker for making an injury claim.
One of the advantages to belonging to a union in Canada is free representation when there is a disagreement at the WSIB. Plus, unions advise the WSIB on policy changes, fighting for the workers’ right to appeal decisions.
“We’re trying to make sure the workers get the best coverage that they’re entitled to,” says Brenda Snider, WSIB representative for SEIU Healthcare members.
Take the case of Violet, a personal support worker (PSW) working in a long-term care unit near Haliburton, where she had lived for nearly 15 years in 2009. That’s when she suffered a repetitive stress injury to her shoulder. Physiotherapy wasn’t working, so she went to the WSIB for help.
The WSIB retrained her for office administration. When no jobs were available in her home area, they said she should move with her husband to the GTA to look there instead.
That didn’t seem fair at all, so Violet reached out to her union representative and SEIU Healthcare for help with the appeals process.
Violet was a typical dedicated homecare PSW. “I loved my job,” she told us. “I felt it was an honour to be entrusted with the care of someone else’s loved ones.”
But after the injury, she could no longer meet the physical demands of personal support work.
Her initial claim was denied, but finally, after a few years, in April 2015, the appeals tribunal awarded Violet with a fair benefit that she can now live on.
When a WSIB decision comes in, the worker, if not in agreement with the decision, has six months to appeal.
If you have received a decision from the WSIB that doesn’t seem right to you, get in contact with your union rep and they will help you through the process.
It is important that workers go through their union rep, says Brenda, because there is an important appeals readiness form that needs to be carefully prepared. “We have to make sure we have all our ducks in a row when that form goes in.”
Unfortunately, it can be difficult and time-consuming to receive decisions on workplace injuries that are favourable to workers. But if you don’t have a union to represent you, it is even harder.
Without a union, individuals “have to find and pay for someone to represent them, which can be quite a cost. Some members don’t know that you can avoid these fees,” says Brenda.
“You pay dues for this service.”
Non-union workers in Ontario may qualify for free help at the Office of the Worker Adviser.