(Canadian OH&S News) — The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) has found that overt workplace injury claim suppression occurs in approximately six per cent of cases, representing about 1,000 claims per year.
The finding was part of an in-depth review, Claim Suppression in the Manitoba Workers Compensation System: Research Report, released on March 28. While overt suppression — defined as situations in which an employer uses threats or coercion to influence a worker either not to file a claim or to withdraw it once it has been filed, or provides misinformation as to eligibility — was estimated at six per cent, misreporting (reporting lost-time injuries as no-lost-time claims) occurred in an estimated 14 per cent of claims, the report said.
“While the WCB is concerned about all types of under-reporting, we are particularly concerned about overt claim suppression because it impacts workers the most,” said WCB president and CEO Winston Maharaj in a statement. “We are using the report’s findings to guide our efforts to reduce claim suppression.”
The statement said that the board is undertaking a variety of initiatives to target the phenomenon:
* New compliance framework — By the end of the year, the WCB will enhance its compliance framework to educate stakeholders on the rules and obligations of the system;
* Administrative penalties — The WCB is currently reviewing its administrative penalties related to claim suppression, with a view to seeing those penalties increased;
* Assessment rate model changes — The board is undertaking a comprehensive review of its rate model to ensure it prioritizes prevention and rewards employers for safe workplaces, while removing financial incentives to minimize or suppress claims. The review will include consultations with stakeholders, as well as actuarial modeling and impact analysis;
* Public awareness campaign — The WCB will launch another public awareness campaign to remind employers that they must report injuries and encourage workers to report injuries by calling the WCB directly;
* Outreach to vulnerable workers — The board will continue to add resources to its website at www.wcb.mb.ca in various languages and simple English “as well as launch more language pathways on its website to provide access to translated publications for non-English speakers.”
Besides overt claim suppression and misreporting, the report also found that there appears to be a significant under-claiming of benefits in Manitoba. “Survey evidence suggests that around 30.1% of workers who experienced a work-related injury that involved more than five days of lost working time may not have claimed WCB lost earnings benefits,” the report read. “Lack of knowledge of entitlement rights and workers’ preference for readily available alternatives (e.g. Manitoba Health, sick leave, employer benefit plans) are the most important factors behind under-claiming.”
While claim suppression is difficult to observe, the WCB estimates that about 3,000 claims each year (nearly 19 per cent) involve “soft” suppression, in which an employer continues to pay the worker his or her regular wage once there is a workplace injury and missed work. “Soft claim suppression may occur whether or not the employer is aware of its reporting responsibilities under the Workers Compensation Act,” the board said.
Claim Suppression in the Manitoba Workers Compensation System: Research Report can be viewed online at http://www.wcb.mb.ca/sites/default/files/Manitoba%20WCB%20Claim%20Suppression%20Report%20-%20Final-1.pdf.