November 23, 2017
On November 14, 2017 the Ontario government introduced the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017, known colloquially as Bill 177, which includes several amendments to the mental stress provisions of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (“WSIA”).
As previously reported in our May 24, 2017 article, Ontario to Extend WSIB Benefits for Work-Related Mental Stress, section 13 of the WSIA was amended to provide coverage for mental stress on a chronic basis and also modify the coverage criteria for traumatic mental stress.
If passed, Bill 177 will amend S.13 yet again, this time to provide transition measures. The transitional rules, if passed, will provide the framework for determining mental stress claims that arose prior to January 1, 2018.
The transition rules closely follow the protocol established in 2016 when the presumptive Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (‘PTSD’) provisions for First Responders and Others came into effect. In essence, instead of Chronic Mental Stress coverage being a new entitlement available to all Ontario workers as of January 1, 2018, coverage could extend retroactively to April 29, 2014. Worker claims would not be subject to the usual claim filing deadlines under S.22 or the appeal time limits under S.123. Any claims not yet adjudicated (‘pending claims’) and any appeals not yet having a Tribunal-level decision (‘pending appeals’) would be eligible for review and reconsideration.
The WSIB completed a stakeholder policy consultation and issued the final adjudicative policies for both Chronic Mental Stress (‘CMS’) and Traumatic Mental Stress (‘TMS’) entitlement in October 2017, which take effect January 1, 2018 but will govern adjudication of new claims (only).
Further policy and adjudicative measures will be required if transition provisions are passed.
Bill 177, if passed, would also amend WSIA S.174(3 -5) to allow the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (‘WSIAT’) to appoint a 3 or 5 person Panel to preside over appeals. The choice of a sole Vice Chair remains available as well.
While the presumptive PTSD provisions and the additional claim cost burden was centralized in the public sector, the CMS provisions apply to all workers in the province and, therefore, the additional costs, costs that have not been estimated to date but are anticipated to be significant, will be borne by all employers small and large, private and public.
For further background and details, please view our recent webinar, archived HERE.
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