WorkSafeNB appeals process overhauled in proposed bill
Injured workers' advocate celebrates independent tribunal
New Brunswick's government is moving to fix delays in how workers appeal decisions to WorkSafeNB.
The province's workers' compensation system has been plagued by complaints from people forced to wait for long periods of time while appealing the rejection of their claims.
If passed, the bill would create a new appeal tribunal, separate from the WorkSafeNB organization. The proposed changes would give the new tribunal 90-days to hear an appeal and write a decision.
I just feel like I've been bullied by WorkSafe.- Timothy Lloyd
In 2012, there were 800 appeals started, taking on average 202 days to complete.
"The delays and the wait created too much anguish, financial hardship and problems for individuals, workers, employers and families. So having a maximum wait time of 90 days will go a long way to ensure that people can get a decision and get on with their lives," said Labour Minister Jody Carr.
He says if a decision sets a precedent, similar appeals would be affected instead of being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Carr says the new tribunal will have enough resources to ensure decisions are made within the three-month time period.
First changes in 20 years
Those rulings will have to be implemented within another 30 days.
The changes sit well with advocate Tom Barron, owner of Barron T Labour Relations.
"Injured workers have looked for these changes for decades and they are going to support these changes overwhelmingly and it will be an advantage to injured workers in New Brunswick for decades to come,” he said.
According to the province’s Labour Department, these would be the first major changes to workplace compensation laws in 20 years.
Timothy Lloyd injured his back in 2011 and hasn't been able to return to his job. He says WorkSafeNB hasn't helped, even though he won an appeal of his case.
"I just feel like I've been bullied by WorkSafe and they have not done what they've been told to do," he said.
It took the appeals tribunal seven months to issue a decision in Lloyd's case.
Six months have passed since then and Lloyd says the decision has not been implemented.
It's unclear what the changes will mean for Lloyd, but he hopes WorkSafeNB lives up to the tribunal's decision, which directs WorkSafeNB to enable him to work again.
"My back will never be the same, but at least help me prepare for some type of job," he said.