Saskatchewan: Workers’ Compensation System Needs Overhaul, Review Committee Says

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By Jeremy Hainsworth

Nov. 17—Saskatchewan needs to strengthen its psychological injury policy regarding work-related post traumatic stress disorder and mental health coverage and make additional significant changes to it worker' compensation system, according to a report from the Workers' Compensation Act Committee of Review released Nov. 14.

Systemic Issues

The review committee found that stakeholders were frustrated by a lack of progress in implementing previous recommendations and suggested the Workers' Compensation Board examine its service culture and ensure that management is accountable for implementing change.

“Boards exist to serve the recipients of their services—injured workers and employers,” the report said. “A more robust and efficient level of service is due to these stakeholders.”

The review found that in 2004 it took on average 44 days from the date of injury for the initial payment to be issued.

“In our opinion, this needs to be reduced by at least half,” the report said. Similarly, when cases go to a hearing, decisions should be issued within 30 days.

Employees also reported feeling that their integrity was questioned when they made claims.

“This reflects badly on the compensation system and goes against everything the board has stated it stands for in building positive relationships with workers and employers,” the report said.

Psychological Injury

The report recommended the board enhance and expand the psychological injury policy to better define coverage for post traumatic stress disorder and mental health injuries in line with the needs of all workers in Saskatchewan.

The vagueness of the definition of psychological injury in the current policy, last revised in 2009, can result in employees being denied coverage for which they should qualify.

“We recommend early adoption of a revised PTSD policy,” the report said, which would include assigning specific case workers to administer PTSD claims.

Legislation may also address this issue. Under Bill 39, The Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, 2016, introduced in the Saskatchewan legislature Oct. 25, a worker would be given the benefit of the doubt that a psychological injury such as PTSD occurred during the course of employment unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Deaths and Benefits

Survivors of workers killed on the job are often unaware they may qualify for benefits or they may face cumbersome procedures to obtain them, the report said.

The review committee recommended that the Workers' Compensation Board assign fatality service specialists to assist survivors of employees killed on the job.

“When fatalities occur, families involved should not be bounced around the system,” the report said.

Motor Vehicle Injuries

The review found that workers injured in work-related automobile incidents may receive fewer benefits through WCB than through the general government insurance system, which provides better coverage in the areas of cognitive and functional assistance, clothing damage, financial counseling and nondependent benefits. The commission recommended aligning compensation benefits between the agencies to ensure workers aren't disadvantaged in the event of a work-related motor vehicle accident.

Privacy Legislation

The review commission also recommended—for the third time in 10 years—that certain sections of the provincial Workers' Compensation Act be rescinded to bring the act into compliance with the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The WCB continues to maintain that its implementing legislation is sufficient to protect the privacy of workers' health information.

WCB Response

WCB director of communications Carolyn Van der Veen told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 16 that the Workers' Compensation Board is in the process of analyzing all the recommendations outlined in the review commission's report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Hainsworth in Vancouver at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

For More Information

The Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Act Committee of Review report is available here.

For more information on Saskatchewan HR law and regulation, see the Saskatchewan primer.

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