Changes to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Act

In early December, 2015, the provincial legislature passed legislation amending three labour-related statutes under the 2015 Employment and Labour Statute Law Amendment Act. The changes to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), the Fire Prevention and Protection Act, and the Public Sector Labour Relations Act will strengthen the rights of workers, firefighters and survivor benefits. For the purposes of this blog post, only changes to the WSIA will be discussed.

Of special importance to employers and employees is the inclusion of a new offence in the WSIA, in an effort to prevent employers from prohibiting workers from reporting workplace injuries or illnesses. Employers will be expressly prohibited from taking any action that is intended to discourage or prevent a worker from filing a WSIB claim for benefits, or influencing or inducing the worker to withdraw or abandon a claim for benefits.

Examples of prohibited actions include:

  • Dismissing or threatening to dismiss a worker;
  • Disciplining or suspending or threatening to discipline or suspend a worker;
  • Imposing a penalty on a worker; and
  • Directly or indirectly intimidating or coercing a worker with threats, promises, persuasion or other means.

For employers who are found to have violated this new offence under the WSIA, the employer will be subject to a new penalty under section 155.1 which has been increased from $100,000 to $500,000.

In addition to the new offence, the Employment and Labour Statute Law Amendment Act also requires the WSIB board of directors to appoint a “Fair Practices Commissioner” to act as an ombudsman for injured workers, employers and WSIB service providers. The functions of the Fair Practices Commissioner shall include investigating complaints and making recommendations, with a full list of functions to be decided by the WSIB board. Each year, the Fair Practices Commissioner will be required to prepare a report on his or her activities during the previous year, to be provided to the WSIB board and made available to the public.

Amendments to the other acts will be discussed in a subsequent blog post.

To find out more about how the changes to the WSIA will affect you, contact employment lawyer Peter McSherry online or at 519-821-5465.