The WSIB made significant changes to its Labour Market Re-entry (LMR) and Return to Work (RTW) programs to get better results for injured workers and employers. The WSIB began delivering LMR case management services internally in December 2010 and will phase out its use of external LMR Primary Service Providers by August 2011.
The change is part of the new Work Reintegration Program the WSIB has developed to improve suitable employment for injured workers.
Vocational Rehabilitation to Labour Market Re-entry
Beginning in the 1930s, Ontario’s workers’ compensation system introduced vocational rehabilitation assistance for injured workers. There were few legislative limits on what action the Board could take to rehabilitate injured workers.
In 1990, provincial legislation brought in stronger vocational rehabilitation provisions, a more prescriptive role for the Board’s vocational rehabilitation staff, and obligations for certain employers to offer re-employment to injured workers for up to two years following their injury.
In 1998, the legislation changed to allow for a “self-reliance” model that gave responsibility for return to work to the workplace parties: workers and employers. The goal of the program was to help injured workers who could not go back to their pre-injury employer by providing re-training and support to re-enter the open labour market and restore their earnings. Case management for LMR services was outsourced to private LMR Primary Service Providers. They, in turn, referred workers to various Secondary Service Providers to deliver academic, language, vocational and job search training. The WSIB assumed a monitoring and dispute resolution role.
The case for change
Since the 1998 legislation came into effect, re-training programs have not produced desired results in injured worker employment or earnings restoration.
To get at the root of these problems and identify solutions, the WSIB conducted a comprehensive review of its LMR and RTW programs, including comparison with other jurisdictions and a third-party value for money audit. Stakeholder consultations conducted by the WSIB’s Chair in 2009 underscored the need for significant change to the WSIB’s approach to supporting injured workers as they re-enter the workforce.
These consultations and the value for money audit highlighted two things:
- Effective labour market re-entry must be linked to return to work programs.
- Lack of direct WSIB involvement in LMR hinders return to work and the effectiveness of LMR programs.
Work Reintegration Program
The WSIB is committed to developing a leading practice program for supporting injured workers as they return to employment, either with their original employer or in the open job market. We recognize that simply returning to the old vocational rehabilitation system is not the answer for achieving effective labour market re-entry and return to work outcomes.
The WSIB has established a new integrated LMR and Return to Work program called the Work Reintegration Program. The program’s key principles are based on stakeholder consultation and research into leading practice in other jurisdictions.
Key principles of the new program are:
- Maintenance of the employment relationship, whenever possible, between the worker and original employer.
- Reintegrating workers into decent, safe and sustainable work.
- Effective and meaningful input and choice on the part of the worker to ensure their commitment and active participation.
- High standards for services provided by WSIB staff and contracted service providers.
- Effective cost management of the program, recognizing that an investment in worker re-training is important to workers, employers and the WSIB.
- Ensuring workers are fairly compensated for wage loss, recognizing the difference between pre-injury earnings and post-injury earning ability.
Exercising direct oversight for the providers who are delivering training and education services to injured workers will make a difference in program quality, the efficiency and effectiveness of the WSIB’s Work Reintegration Program and long-term cost containment.