tential levels. The cost consequences can
be very high.
Some strategies can work extremely
well for employers. For example, if the
employee is injured and cannot return
to a full job role, modified work (if available) should be offered immediately before lost time from the job can occur. No
lost time is the goal for employers and the
employee should always, and immediately, be focused on returning to work.
Accurate diagnosis and high touch
communication involving the employee,
any relevant healthcare providers, immediate supervisors and HR senior management yield the best results in return
to work planning. If handled correctly,
return to work coordination can dramatically reduce an employee’s time away
from the job.
The ideal situation is for the return
to be quick and safe, while ensuring it
doesn’t lead to any relapse or further
complications. Less lost time for employers often means better experience ratings,
lower premiums and can even be the difference between receiving a rebate over a
Sometimes an injury may be serious
enough to be considered a permanent
impairment and these awards are governed by the legislative provisions in each
province. The permanent impairment
awards in most provinces account for future earnings loss and pain and suffering.
However, a few provinces separate loss of
future earnings from pain and suffering
and have very specific schedules for the
calculation of these awards.
In most provinces an employee can
have both a permanent impairment
award and also be paid loss of earnings.
This is often a point of contention and ultimately an area of appeal for employers.
The Canadian Workers’ Compensation
system is very complex and U.S. businesses that operate in Canada or are considering expanding to the country must
understand its intricacies.
Liz R. Scott, Ph.D., owns and operates
Organizational Solutions Inc., which offers
employer Workers’ Compensation services.
In Quebec, the language of choice at
the CSST (Commission de la santé et de
la sécurité du travail) is French, and it is
very difficult to interact with the Board
in any language other than French. Each
Board holds its unique appeal system and
the use of specific Workers Compensation consultants is very common at the
Unlike the U.S., there are very few cases
that involve employee lawyers, although
there has been an increase in litigation
since the legal field was given the ability
to advertise. The legislation is not administered on precedent, but on the interpretation of legislative and operational
policy provisions based on the individual
merits of each case. The appeal system
is generally a two- or three-level system
with the final decisions preventing further appeal unless there has been a gross
misinterpretation of policy.
Be aware (and beware)
The Canadian system is governed by a
legislatively driven act and operational
policy. The legislation and operational
policy in each province outlines all key
steps for compliance. This can be everything from defining who requires coverage to how permanent impairment
awards are established.
In 2012, the government of British
Columbia passed Bill 14 eliminating
the phrase “mental stress” in favour of
“mental disorder,” and included specific
wording to deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace as a cause of
such a disorder. It is common to see in
a lot of Canadian legislation that an employer’s failure to manage risk associated
with mental health can be just as serious
as failing to manage risk associated with
Canadian Workers’ Compensation legislation is complex and has many pitfalls
for companies not familiar with them. In
particular, companies should watch for:
1. Failure to offer return to work im-
mediately. In many provinces, failure to
offer return to work immediately and ac-
tively participate in an employee’s return
to work program can result in additional
penalties of up to a year of the injured
2. Third-party cost transfer and sec-
ond injury funds. Third-party cost trans-
fer and second injury funds are still alive
and well in Canada, and if an individual
has personal or past work-related limita-
tions, some of the cost can be attributed
to this fund instead of the employer’s in-
While the boards advise employers
that they review all files for potential cost
reductions; there is evidence to indicate
otherwise. If employers want third-party
cost transfer or access to second injury
fund cost relief, it must be applied for
with adequate documentation to support
the rationale for these cost reductions.
3. Claims management. Claims man-
agement is an area of significant attention
in the employer community. The various
Workers’ Compensation boards have the
final authority of any continuance of ben-
efits and claim decisions. However, many
employers either assertively manage the
claims internally or hire external experts
to assist in the management of files.
The consequence of not paying attention to claim initiation, claims management, return to work and financial management of workers’ compensation claims
in the Canadian market can be financially
crippling. In the last economic downturn,
several companies reported the Workers’
Compensation penalty programs contributed to their bankruptcy and ultimate
closure of their business.
How well-managed return to
work programs help
Return to work is strongly advocated
by most of the Workers’ Compensation
boards in Canada. The exception is Quebec, where the physician still controls the
lost time and ultimate return to work of
the injured employee.
In Quebec, it is extremely important
to have a French-speaking representative
either internally or externally. The CSST
has a 14-day waiting period where the
employer is to pay the injured employee.
This is the window of opportunity to affect the ultimate outcome of the file. Once
it is taken over by the CSST, the legislative
peculiarities make it the most difficult
province to maneuver. The experience
rating system is complex with three po-