Friday, February 11, 2011

WCB premiums and return to work

The Alberta Federation of Labour produces a periodical called Union magazine. In the latest edition, there is an interesting piece about the relationship between returning injured workers to modified work and WCB premiums. The crux of the article is this statement:

Alberta's WCB, however, collects the lowest premiums in Canada from employers in dangerous industries. Simply put, WCB is not collecting enough revenue from premiums and it balances its books on the backs of workers and their families by putting a squeeze on payouts.

Whether WCBs inappropriately return injured workers to work earlier in order to minimize employer premiums is an interesting research question that is tricky to approach, in part because of the political nature of the question.

There is certainly a fair bit of circumstantial evidence hinting at this (I have an article in review the indirectly touches upon this). And, as the AFL article notes, worker advocates suggest this sort behaviour occurs. Certainly in Alberta, the politics of such a strategy are quite workable.

More interesting still is the impact of the inappropriate use of return-to-work programs on workers. This has been nicely documented by Ellen MacEachern in an article well worth reading.

-- Bob Barnetson

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