Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Interim Board Policies - How are they working?

Well the short answer is that they are not.  The new policies have lead to an influx of appeals, even more  unrealistic plans being developed and in my humble view more frustrated injured workers and that frustration leads to more anxiety and depression.  The Board's current mindset that the employer can and must find something for injured workers is causing strain on employers as well. I was recently told of a situation where the majority of the workforce is currently laid off and the company is working on skeleton staff (down from 400 to 30 people in the plant) but yet  return to work meetings continue to be scheduled.   Really how many return to work meetings are required with an employer before the WSIB gets the message that there is no modified work available. The amount of money being spent is ridiculous and to what end.

There really are workers who are not able to return to work and may never return.  The WSIB hires people to conduct medical assessments, psychovocational assessments and functional abilities assessments.  Maybe its time to look at these opinions and use them in making determinations. What does the WSIB know that these professionals don't? 

The WSIB is not obligated to retrain each and every injured worker but they must and have an obligation under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to provide the skills necessary to approximate the workers preinjury earnings.  So if a worker was making $30.00 per hour an effort should be made to find a course of study that will afford the worker the opportunity to make this money once again despite the injury.  Does a Philosophy program at University do this? Probably not.  But a Social Work degree may. But in determining the suitablility of the program, the psychovocational reports should be closely examined.  Someone suffering from Post traumatic stress disorder or who is dealing with their own personal conflicts may not be suited to this profession, nor, would someone who is anti social.

The same holds true of those being trained, and I use the term loosely, for customer service. The physcial demands of the job must be looked at closely and again the person's psychovocational make up.  There are alot of jobs classified as customer service which truely are more appropriately classified as retail sales. So, again if the person cannot stand for prolonged periods of time, do not like working with people, are not fashion conscious how are they going to find work in  the "mall" setting?

The question the WSIB must look at when choosing the Suitable Occupation and have failed to do so is whether there is a reasonable prospect that the person would be hired in the local labour market.  No this does not mean that because my law office is open for business that I am hiring and therefore there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining a job as a paralegal in my office.  The Board must look at availablility in the local labour market, the worker's compensable limitations and other non compesable factors, including age, IQ, education, ability to read, write and speak English, their past job history, transferrable skills, ability to interact with people, ability to use a computer and their non compensable problems.  Yes, this means looking at the whole person to determine if they are able to return to the workforce and start looking and taking the opinion of the professionals they hire. 

After 23 years of practicing workers compensation law, I've seen many changes to the WSIB system but the current  practices have left much to be desired and require a careful review of the purpose of the legislation, the costs and the results including the impact of the service delivery model on the workplace parties.