QUEEN’S PARK — On Wednesday, Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates’ bill, the Respecting Injured Workers Act (Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment), passed first reading in the legislature.
If passed into law, Gates’ bill would end the practice of ‘deeming.’ Deeming is when the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) decides a worker is able to earn amounts they are not actually earning, on the basis of suitable and available work they do not actually have.
As an example, if a worker is injured on the job while making $22 an hour, the WSIB may determine that while that worker can’t go back to their old job, they may be able to do another job at $16 an hour. Whether the job exists or not, the WSIB may remove that amount from the worker’s benefits.
“People are already struggling with cost of living,” said Gates. “It’s wrong to take more money out of the pockets of people who were injured at work based on hypothetical jobs they don’t actually have.
“No worker who is injured on the job should be living in poverty in the province of Ontario. But that is the unfortunate reality today – for as many as 50 per cent of folks who are injured on the job. Frankly, it is unacceptable and needs to change.”
Gates’ bill would amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act so that the WSIB would not determine earnings based on employment a worker doesn’t have, unless the worker refused a job in bad faith.
“My bill would protect injured workers by ending the practice of deeming,” said Gates. “Injured workers deserve better. We should be providing the support they need, not punishing them when they are acting in good faith. The Employment Insurance system already works like this. It’s just common sense.”
Gates previously introduced the bill in 2019, in the previous legislative session. It passed first reading, but the government chose not to move it forward.