According to a new in-depth review by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB), Claim Suppression in the Manitoba Workers Compensation System: Research Report, overt suppression of workplace injury claims is actually a common phenomenon, representing about 1,000 claims per year, or six percent of the total.
Overt suppression is defined by the WCB as a situation in which an employer threatens or coerces a worker, to get them to either not file a claim, or to withdraw a filed claim, or to provide misinformation to the WCB with regard to eligibility. In addition to overt suppression, 14 percent of claims were misreported, meaning lost-time injuries were reported as no-lost-time claims.
In a statement accompanying the review, the WCB made clear that, while they were concerned about all types of under-reporting, overt claim suppression was especially troubling, because of the impact on workers. “We are using the report’s findings to guide our efforts to reduce claim suppression,” they said.
The WCB board plans a variety of possible initiatives in an effort to target the problem, including; a new compliance framework, to better educate stakeholders as to the rules and obligations they have under the system; new or enhanced administrative penalties related to claim suppression; changes in the assessment rate model to account for suppression; a public awareness campaign to remind employers of their legal obligation to both report injuries and encourage workers to report injuries; and an outreach program for vulnerable workers, to make sure they’re aware of their rights and responsibilities under the system.
The report also found a significant number of cases of under-claiming of benefits. The report reads, “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. 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.”
The WCB also estimates that about 19 percent of claims annually involve “soft” suppression, which is when an employer continues to pay the worker normally, even after a workplace injury and missed work. According to the report, “Soft claim suppression may occur whether or not the employer is aware of its reporting responsibilities under the Workers Compensation Act.”
The report, Claim Suppression in the Manitoba Workers Compensation System: Research Report can be read by clicking on the link.