The Manitoba Workers’ Compensation Board has just released an independent report into the incidence of claims suppression and the factors associated with his behaviour. Claims suppression occurs when an injured worker is discouraged from filing or continuing a workers’ compensation claim. Claim suppression most often comes up in discussions of how employers manage their workers’ compensation premiums.
Suppression matters for two main reason. First, it often denies workers benefits in the short term. Second, and more concerning, is the long-term impact of suppression on workers’ eligibility for benefits if they fail to make a claim (i.e., there is no paper trail that the injury is work-related) and experience a recurrence of the injury later on that seriously compromises their ability to earn a living.
The findings of the Manitoba study are disturbing, but not all that surprising. The short version is:
- Under-reporting: About 45% of workers with lost-time injuries did not claim benefits. About 30% of injured workers who require more than 5 days off do not claim wage-loss benefits. Lack of knowledge about entitlements and preferences for other forms of compensation are said to be more important than overt employer claim suppression.
- Mis-reporting: Claiming time-loss claims as no-time-loss claims occurs in 15-35% of all accepted no-time-loss claims.
- Claims suppression: Employer efforts to suppress claims (presumably to minimize workers’ compensation premiums) are widespread. Depending on the approach used to calculate suppression, you get estimates on overt suppression (basically actions by the employer to dissuade claims) 6-30% mark (and it seems to be worse for workers under 35). If you add in passive suppression (such as employers continuing wages), the range is 18-53%.
The nature of the problem and the method make it very hard to convey “hard” numbers and we should use these numbers with a great deal of caution. That said, the report suggests that overt and passive claim suppression is a significant factor in Manitoba. It would be interesting to see similar estimates from other jurisdictions.
-- Bob Barnetson