(Photo courtesy of Somrek Kosolwittayanant / Royalty-free / iStock / Getty Images Plus)(Photo courtesy of Somrek Kosolwittayanant / Royalty-free / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

New WSIB strategy aims to better protect injured and sick temporary foreign workers

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is re-examining 50 historical claims made by temporary foreign workers who were injured or became ill on the job.

The WSIB is implementing a new Foreign Agricultural Worker Strategy emphasizing recovery and return to work even if they return to their home country.

"These are some of the most vulnerable people working in Ontario today, and we owe it to them to be there if they get hurt on the job," said WSIB President and CEO Jeff Lang. "These are people who come to work our farms, grow our food, and contribute to our economy. If they get hurt while they do it, our responsibility does not end when they return to their home country."

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Legislation obliges the WSIB to adjust income replacement payments for those who are hurt while working and cannot return to their employment but can do other work.

The WSIB had interpreted the law to mean only work available in Ontario. Now, it'll include suitable and available work, even if it is in the person's home job market.

"We took a look at this, and I can't justify the interpretation that was being taken," said Lang. "I can't say to an injured farm worker who was sent back to Jamaica that we are deducting the equivalent of an Ontario salary that is impossible for them to get. It's not fair -- we're fixing it."

As a result, Lang said more than 50 claims filed since 2007 decided on the previous criteria will be re-assessed.

The WSIB will contact those with a claim under review starting in June.

"This is about doing the right thing. As a first priority we're going to work with Ontario farming employers to help get more injured farm workers back to work," continued Lang. "In cases where that is not possible, and they return to their home country, we are going to treat them fairly."

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