The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission is asking for a second round of feedback on proposed changes to the way pensions work for people affected by workplace injuries.
At the moment, anyone with a lasting loss of function through a workplace injury gets lifetime pension benefits based on two things: the percentage of impairment and what they were earning at the time.
The WSCC proposes changing that to a system that, in the commission’s words, provides “a one-time lump sum payment for non-financial losses plus an ongoing benefit payment for lost earnings.”
The WSCC believes that system lines up with the rest of Canada and is fairer. The commission is now providing draft policy documents to show how the proposed system would work, and asking whether northerners agree.
In a news release, WSCC president and chief executive Debbie Molloy said the proposal was a “fairer system that has the ability to consider not just the lasting effects of a person’s injury and what they were earning when it happened, but other important factors such as their occupation and the impact the injury has had on their current and future earning levels.”
Molloy said the amount a person receives can be reassessed if impairment worsens over time.
In documents discussing the proposal in detail, the WSCC gives the example of a high school teacher and heavy-duty mechanic who sustain the same injury while earning the same income.
Under the current system, the teacher is able to return to work, earning an income as well as receiving a permanent lifetime pension for their injury, a discussion paper states. The heavy-duty mechanic cannot return to work, ceases to earn an income, and only receives the permanent lifetime pension.
The new system would provide a compensation payment for the injury but then adjust future payments based on the ultimate impact on someone’s ability to earn a living. In other words, the teacher – whose long-term earning loss is not as badly affected – would receive a smaller sum over time than the mechanic. At the moment, both would receive the same support.
The WSCC says the cost implication of the new system – and therefore, presumably, the overall sum paid out – does “not represent a significant departure from the existing system” according to an independent analysis. One of the challenges of the new system would be assessing what someone remains capable of earning after their injury, which is necessary in order to determine their long-term earning loss.
On its website, the WSCC said 57 responses were received in a first round of engagement last year. Of those, 64 percent supported the change.
The WSCC said it had tweaked how some calculations are “recalibrated” in response to the first round of feedback. The current system will remain in place for those who already receive pensions under it.
The second round of engagement runs until December 8, 2021.