When the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) was amended at the end of 2015, the maximum penalty for employers was increased from $100,000 to $500,000 per count. This represents a significant increase in the potential penalties for employers who are convicted of violations of the WSIA. It also represents a change in an employer's negotiating position if they are looking to resolve charges without a trial.
The WSIA contains several requirements for employers and failure to comply with one or more of these requirements can result in prosecution by the Legal Branch of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). The employer requirements include:
- The duty to register as an employer within the prescribed time;
- The duty to report accidents within 3 days of learning of them;
- The duty to report a material change in circumstances within 10 days;
- The duty to provide statements of total wages earned by employees; and
- The duty not to make false or misleading statements to the WSIB in relation to a person's claim for benefits.
Generally, if a party is charged with an offence under a statute, such as the WSIA, they have the option to either A) proceed to a trial; or B) resolve the matter without a trial by pleading guilty and attempting to negotiate a settlement.
When negotiating a penalty, the prescribed maximum is always a consideration of the Crown. The maximum penalty is also considered by the Court when they consider accepting a negotiated penalty, and when sentencing a convicted party. Therefore, the increase in the maximum potential penalty means that the Crown and the Court can take a harder line on what the accepted penalty should be, in relation to the other circumstances and facts surrounding the charge(s). The short story is that a higher potential maximum penalty makes it more difficult to negotiate a lower fine.
Employers need to be aware of their responsibilities under the WSIA and the potential for even higher monetary consequences for failing to fulfill those duties.