The first workers’ compensation regime in Canada was enacted in Ontario in 1914. Prior to workers’ compensation legislation, many injured workers had to sue their employers in court under common law for just compensation. It was possible to win a case against the employer, but it was costly, and the worker had to prove the employer was negligent. Some labour unions facilitated their own accident resources, but only a minority of the work force was covered.
In 1910, Mr. Justice William Meredith was appointed to a Royal Commission to study workers’ compensation. The Meredith Report (Meredith Principles) was released in 1913 and outlined a trade-off in which workers relinquish their right to sue an employer in exchange for compensation benefits. The Meredith Principles ensure that employers fund the compensation system and share the liability for injured workers. In return, injured workers receive benefits while they recover, but cannot sue their employers. The Meredith Principles are the foundation of all provincial and federal workers’ compensation systems in Canada.
What are the Meredith Principles?
No Fault Compensation: Workers’ injuries are compensated regardless of how the injury occurred. The worker and the employer waive the right to sue. Fault is irrelevant; providing compensation is the focus.
Security of Benefits: A fund is established to guarantee compensation funds exist and will be available to all workers.
Collective Liability: The total cost of the compensation system is funded by the employers. Employers contribute to a common fund. Financial liability becomes their collective responsibility.
Independent Administration: The boards that administer workers’ compensation insurance are financially independent and separate from government.
Exclusive Jurisdiction: All compensation claims are administered directly by the compensation board. The board is the final decision-maker and is not bound by legal precedent.
The various jurisdictional Workers’ Compensation Acts across Canada outline the roles and responsibilities of the worker, the employer, and the compensation board.
What are the workers’ responsibilities?
Report the illness or injury to the employer;
Mitigate further loss; and
Cooperate with the employer when suitable modified duties are offered.
What are the employers’ responsibilities?
Provide first aid, pay for transportation for medical treatment (if required), and report the injury or illness to the respective Workers’ Compensation Board;
Pay full wages and benefits for the day or shift on which the injury occurred;
Investigate the incident and keep a record of steps taken to correct the problem; and
Provide and offer suitable, modified work to allow for an early and safe return to work.
What are the boards’ responsibilities?
Review reported incidents and determine benefits entitlement;
Issue loss of earning and/or benefits where applicable;
Interpret and administer workers’ compensation legislation; and
Review evidence and make decisions on appeals initiated by the worker, the employer, or the third-party adjuster.
Are all workers covered by workers’ compensation in Canada?
There are some industries that do not have to be part of the workers’ compensation system. These industries include, but are not limited to:
Health care practices;
Barbers / hair salons;
Private clubs / health clubs;
For more information, contact your Workplace Health and Safety Committee, or your Local Union Representative.