The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) has announced a number of new initiatives that will enhance the fairness of the WCB's experience rating system for workers and employers and strengthen injury and illness prevention in Manitoba, it says.
These initiatives are part of a response to a report released earlier this year by Paul Petrie, an external consultant tasked with reviewing the impact of the WCB assessment rate model on fair compensation for workers and equitable assessments for employers.
"Mr. Petrie's report, along with other recent reviews on workplace safety and health in Manitoba make it clear that, while we have made progress ensuring our system meets the needs of workers and employers, we still have room to improve," said WCB president and CEO, Winston Maharaj.
New compliance unit
A compliance unit is being formed at the WCB that will add staff, resources and provide a focus on investigating allegations of claim suppression.
The new compliance framework will be informed by the WCB's leading research on claims suppression which was initiated in late 2012 and funded through WCB's Research and Workplace Innovation Program. The researcher has already reached out to stakeholders through surveys and focus groups and is currently analyzing the results. When complete, this research will be the most concrete review of claim suppression ever undertaken in Manitoba and potentially the most detailed review of claim suppression ever undertaken across the country.
Additionally, the WCB is currently reviewing its administrative penalties related to claims suppression with a view to seeing those penalties increased in the fall of 2013.
Assessment rate model changes
The WCB is looking at ways to improve its rate model so that it prioritizes prevention and strengthens system accountability by ensuring employers are rewarded for safe workplaces and limiting financial incentives that focus on minimizing claim cost, which may lead to claim suppression.
The WCB has asked key stakeholder bodies to name representatives from labour and employers to take part in an advisory group to review a number of proposed changes to the rate model. The group's advice will be instrumental to the WCB's efforts to adjust the rate model so that it is less volatile and more in line with other Canadian jurisdictions. The proposed changes include narrowing the upper and lower limits of the rate range and reducing the speed at which an employer's rate can move within the range. The proposed changes will simplify the model while making it easier to communicate and more understandable for employers, said WCB.
The WCB will also be undertaking a comprehensive review of the assessment rate model over the course of the next 18 months.
Worker advisor office changes
A serious injury support worker position has been created at the Worker Advisor Office. This position will provide free and confidential services to injured workers who have suffered a serious injury and their families who require assistance when dealing with the workplace safety and health and workers compensation systems.
The WCB considers returning to work to be an integral part of the recovery process. The WCB is currently undertaking a review of customer service and return to work in case management, with the goal to enhance the overall return to work experience for Manitoba workers.
Claim reporting campaign
At the end of July, the WCB launched a new public awareness campaign that encourages workers and employers to report workplace injuries to the WCB.
The two-month-long campaign encourages people to call the WCB’s claim reporting phone number when injured at work. It also includes ads targeted at employers to remind them that employers must report all workplace injuries and makes this information more accessible to all workers, including those who speak English as an additional language.
"The WCB remains committed to supporting all injured workers in Manitoba," said Maharaj. "That's why we're reaching out to vulnerable populations who may face challenges in reporting injuries to the WCB."
Outreach to vulnerable workers
As part of its outreach to vulnerable workers, the WCB has created brochures, stickers, posters and videos in 22 different languages as well as materials/videos for English as an additional language instructors to present in a classroom setting. Additionally, the SAFE Manitoba partnership recently launched more than a dozen language pathways on its website to provide access to translated publications for non-English speakers.