Workers' Compensation

In Ontario

Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) Access for Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario

Almost all Ontario migrant workers are covered by the WSIB and employers are required to register them. Workers who get injured while working without a work permit are still entitled to claim and receive WSIB benefits.

The WSIB provides coverage to migrant farmworkers both inside and outside of work hours. Migrant workers are covered (and therefore can have a "workplace injury") while travelling between the airport and the place of employment and when using a means of transportation authorized by the employer, and following a direct and uninterrupted route to or from the employer's premises. Most workers are also covered during periods of leisure, meals, and while sleeping in employer-provided housing. See the WSIB policy on seasonal agricultural workers for more information. In general, if you are uncertain about whether an injury is work-related, file a Form 8 to be safe.

Barriers to obtaining WSIB often result from the same factors that impede migrant workers' access to healthcare, such as fear of loss of employment. Also, workers, employers and healthcare providers, though obliged to report workplace injuries to WSIB, may fail to do so due to lack of knowledge of the system, lack of recognition of work-relatedness of the injury, or lack of willingness to report. Employers may try to avoid WSIB claims in order to avoid increased WSIB premiums. Further, workers can be fired and repatriated before their cases are investigated. Back in their countries of origin, they may face logistical, financial and communication barriers to continuing their health treatment and claims investigations.

Recognize that these workers have WSIB entitlement and consider work-relatedness (filing a WSIB claim) as you would for any other worker. Understand that the implications of filing a WSIB claim may be a challenge for this population given their vulnerability and lack of understanding of the process. If unsure, or the problem seems complex, consider referring the worker to an occupational health specialist e.g. OHCOW (1-877-817-0336).

As workers may be repatriated suddenly, provide them with all medical records and contact information, and try to ensure that their health issues are investigated and/or treated before they are repatriated. Physicians may be asked to sign a form that the worker is medically fit to travel, which will facilitate the arrangements for repatriation. Discuss the implications with the worker before such a form is signed. Even if the worker is medically fit to travel, if you are concerned that the worker's health issues are unresolved, and that he/she may encounter difficulties in receiving the same standard of care in the country of origin, consider calling the WSIB case manager to discuss the situation before the worker's repatriation is arranged. Employers do not have the right to tell you not to involve the WSIB. Inform workers that free legal advocates (such as IAVGO) are available to help with the claims process.If advising that a worker can return to work with modified tasks, be specific regarding their limitations. Provide workers with booklets on the WSIB claims process available in Spanish and English.

In British Columbia

WorkSafeBC access for Migrant Farm Workers in British Columbia

Migrant workers are entitled to compensation for injuries that occur while performing work-related duties through WorkSafeBC. If your work-related duties involve travel between work sites, you will likely be covered for an injury resulting from an accident occurring while traveling to or from a work site.

Migrant workers are entitled to compensation for injuries that occur while performing work-related duties. If your work-related duties involve travel between work sites, you will likely be covered for an injury resulting from an accident occurring while traveling to or from a work site. You may also be entitled to compensation if you were injured while traveling to or from a single work site in transportation provided by your employer such as a crew bus.

See the WorkSafeBC factsheet on foreign workers for more information. In general, if you are uncertain about whether an injury is work-related, file a claim to be safe.

There are three ways to file a claim.

  1. You can file a claim by calling their toll-free number: 1 888 967-5377.  Interpreters are available upon request.
  2. You can also attend in person at one of WorkSafeBC’s offices across British Columbia, and obtain an application form.
  3. You can also go to WorkSafeBC’s website and file online.

It is against the law for employers to discourage migrant workers from filing claims, or retaliating against workers who do file claims. Also, employers cannot make deals with workers to give up their right to claim benefits from WorkSafeBC. Any such deal has no effect, and the worker can still make a claim.

Barriers to obtaining workers’ compensation often result from the same factors that impede migrant workers' access to healthcare, such as fear of loss of employment. Also, workers, employers and healthcare providers, though obliged to report workplace injuries, may fail to do so due to lack of knowledge of the system, lack of recognition of work-relatedness of the injury, or lack of willingness to report. Employers may try to avoid filing claims in order to avoid increased premiums. Further, workers can be fired and repatriated before their cases are investigated. Back in their countries of origin, they may face logistical, financial and communication barriers to continuing their health treatment and claims investigations.

Photo by Brandy Saturley (CC BY EQ 3.0)