The Fair Practices Commission ("the Commission") is an arms-length office to Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board ("WSIB"), with a mandate of reviewing complaints from workers, employers and providers to "facilitate fair, equitable and timely resolutions in individual complaints … and to identify and recommend system-wide improvements to WSIB services. The goal of the Commission is to contribute to the WSIB's goals of achieving greater openness, better relationships and improved services."

In fulfilling its mandate, the Commission reviews individual complaints and makes recommendations to improve in three major areas: reducing delays, improving the decision-making process and, improving communication. The Commission reported making recommendations in these areas to WSIB so they might be able to make decisions and process issues in a more timely and efficient manner.

Since opening in 2004, the Commission has seen a 61% increase in complaints (from 917 in 2004 to 1532 in 2007).

The Commission reported an increase of 20% since 2006. An analysis of the complaints indicates that 92% were initiated by workers, their representatives or family members. Complaints by employers and their representatives represented 4.5% of all complaints, which has decreased from 5.5% in 2006. The Commission reported that 92.3% of all calls were resolved the same day. The Commission investigates complaints that involve a potential fairness issue, and uses four (4) administrative fairness benchmark questions to determine whether such an issue exists:

Delay

Was there an unreasonable delay in taking action or making a decision? Was the affected party informed of the delay and the reasons for it? Was correspondence answered or calls returned in a timely fashion?

Communication

Was the decision or action communicated clearly? Were reasons provided to those affected? Did WSIB staff explain what the decisions were based on? Were next steps or options provided?

Behaviour

Was the WSIB staff unbiased and objective when reviewing information? Did staff overlook any relevant information in their actions or in making a decision? Was the staff courteous and professional? Were mistakes acknowledged and apologies offered?

Decision-Making Process

Did the person affected by the decision or action, know it would happen? Did the person have input or an opportunity to correct or respond to information? Was information overlooked? Is there a policy or guideline related to the matter? If so, was it applied in a manner consistent with how it was applied in similar matters?

Of the complaints received in 2006- 2007, 60% were within the Commission's mandate. Of those delay in taking action or decision making represented the biggest issue. By addressing individual complaints and assisting in resolving these issues, the Commission is working toward building relationships between complainants and WSIB staff by explaining the WSIB's processes and providing options for resolution.

The Commission helps resolve conflict by providing fresh views on disputes and devising creative outcomes. This process may help prevent further complaints or formal appeals in certain situations. By tracking complaints and identifying recurring themes or patterns, the Commission recommends systemic changes to prevent future similar problems. For more information on the Fair Practices Commission, visit www.fairpractices.on.ca. ??