Update on Injured Ontario Workers and Bill 148

Injured workers who currently receive benefits under the provincial Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) should be aware of proposed changes to Ontario’s minimum wage laws.

In mid-July 2017, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced that it intended to create more opportunity and security for workers through its Bill 148, which is the proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017.

Among the proposed changes is an increase in the minimum wage across the province, to $15 per hour, and taking steps to ensure part-time workers are paid the same hourly wage as full-time workers.

To examine the impact of these proposed amendments, the province subsequently undertook a two-week consultation on Bill 148, and established a Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.  The Committee travelled to 10 communities to hear from residents and business owners, and conducted a clause-by-clause review of the Bill.

That Committee heard from advocacy groups for injured workers and specifically those who are currently receiving WSIB benefits for wage loss due to workplace related injuries or illnesses.  Those groups’ concern focused on the interplay between the WSIB’s practice of “determining” or “deeming” the wage-levels of injured workers who would otherwise be employed and the level of WSIB benefits that those workers are entitled to receive.

Specifically, these advocacy groups noted that if the minimum wage is increased to $15 per hour as proposed by Bill 148, then injured workers currently on WSIB benefits could see those benefits decrease, based on the Board’s determination of the level of income such workers might otherwise earn were it not for their work-related illness or injury.   The full impact of the proposed minimum-wage increase on existing WSIB benefit entitlements was the subject of a formal submission to the Standing Committee.

It should be emphasized that the changes proposed under Bill 148 – which affect a broad range of employment and labour issues have not yet been finalized.  On August 21, 2017, the Standing Committee adopted at least some of the suggested improvements of the stakeholders’ on various topics.  Those amendments will be reported back to the Ontario Legislature when it resumes sitting on September 11, 2017.