Letter of the Day | Should Jamaica have a worker's compensation system?
THE EDITOR, Sir:
As I read The Gleaner article titled 'Teacher awarded damages for Injury in chair collapse,' dated January 14, 2019, I thought to myself, is it time for the Jamaican Government to have a no-fault insurance system that protects injured workers in the workplace? It is unprecedented that this accident happened back in 2012 and it took almost seven years before the worker receives compensation.
I am currently employed by one of the largest workers' compensation systems in Canada, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), as a case manager. In Ontario, injured workers have their cases adjudicated by a trained impartial quasi-decision-maker. The Insurance regime in Ontario is that of a no-fault insurance. What this means is that both the worker and the employer give up their right to sue under the act. This protect injured workers who are not able to access high-profile lawyers from employers with big bucks.
While I am happy that this teacher was awarded $7 million for being injured in a compensable workplace accident, I am disappointed in how long it took this worker to receive compensation. Furthermore, I am sure that there are many other workers who got injured, who have lost time from work, temporarily or permanently, due to a permanent impairment, or wrongful termination after being injured. How are those workers compensated? What about workers who can't afford a lawyer like this teacher? What if an injured person is not able to work in their current occupation anymore? As Jamaica moves towards becoming a First-World country, these and other questions become more important, and a system needs to be in place to protect injured workers and their families.
As an experienced decision-maker in Ontario, my decisions are governed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance act. The purpose of this act is to accomplish the following in a financially responsible and accountable manner: promote health and safety in workplaces, facilitate the return to work and recovery of workers who sustain a personal injury arising out of, and in the course of, employment or who suffer from an occupational disease; to facilitate the re-entry into the labour market of workers and spouses of deceased workers; and provide compensation and other benefits to workers and to the survivors of deceased workers.
Our decisions are fair and impartial, and our decisions are not governed by legal precedents. Each claim is decided on based on the merits and justice of each case. Should a worker disagrees with a decision, that worker has the right to have the decision reconsidered or appeal to the Appeals Tribunal. If the Government embarks on this, like the WSIB, this institution should be an independent crown corporation.
The Government, by having workplace accidents adjudicated by a separate compensation system, removes the backlog from the courts and ensures that all workers, despite their financial position, have access to compensation (healthcare and loss of earnings). I am sure the Supreme Court could use its resources to focus on other matters.
I hope that the Government would explore the feasibility of such a system in Jamaica.