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  • Norfolk Farms

Injured temporary foreign workers to receive improved benefits

Changes came from a foreign agricultural worker review launched by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Temporary foreign workers who get hurt on the job will no longer have unfair deductions to their income replacement payments when they return to their home country.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board announced the changes in a press release issued May 15. Under the new rules, deductions will take into account the injured worker’s home job market.

“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 Jeff Lang, president and CEO of the WSIB in the release. “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.” 

WSIB launched a review of foreign agricultural workers last fall, which has led to these changes. The new Foreign Agricultural Worker Strategy covers income replacement changes as well as an emphasis on recovery and return to work in Ontario.

When a person is hurt on the job and can return to work, but not to the same job they had at the time of the injury, WSIB is required to adjust their income replacement payments to reflect suitable and available work. Before the changes, WSIB interpreted that to mean work available here in Ontario. For workers who had to return to their home country, that often meant deductions that weren’t realistic to their local job market.

“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, it’s as simple as that. I know that’s what was happening and I’m sorry it did. We’re fixing it,” Lang said.

Under the new rules, WSIB will interpret that to mean suitable and available work in the person’s home job market. 

In addition to making the changes going forward, more than 50 claims filed since 2007 will also be reviewed. In June, WSIB will begin contacting people with a claim under review.

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

Each year thousands of workers from Mexico and the Caribbean arrive in Ontario to work on local farms, providing a crucial labour resource for farms who struggle to find local help. 


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