The Tribunal was created in 1985. At that time, it was called the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT).
On January 1, 1998, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA) came into effect and the WCAT was renamed the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT).
This document sets out some important information about the WSIAT that is helpful for parties to know. The following questions are answered:
After each question, the relevant sections of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (the act that governs the WSIAT) are noted.
The WSIAT is an expert and specialized, administrative, adjudicative tribunal. This means that the WSIAT is established by statute (law) and makes decisions under the workers’ compensation legal scheme that has developed in Ontario. The WSIAT is separate from the civil court system.
The WSIAT is the final level of appeal in the Ontario workplace safety and insurance appeals system. The WSIAT is separate and independent from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). The WSIAT is in a different building and does not share space or staff with the WSIB.
The WSIAT is a provincial agency that is associated with but independent of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
The WSIAT’s main purpose is to hear appeals from final decisions of the WSIB.
The WSIAT decides appeals that involve whether workers are entitled to compensation and other benefits for injuries that occur in the course of their employment. This often involves deciding whether a worker is entitled to loss of earnings benefits related to an injury or other types of compensation, including health care benefits. The WSIAT also decides financial issues that affect employers.
The WSIAT also decides “right to sue” applications. In these applications, the WSIAT decides whether a person has the right to start a civil claim or whether their “right to sue” is taken away because their claim is governed by the Ontario workplace safety and insurance scheme. The WSIAT has “original” jurisdiction in right to sue applications, which means that the WSIAT makes decisions about whether a right to sue should be taken away in the first instance - the WSIB does not decide these issues first.
WSIAT decisions are made by decision-makers called Vice-Chairs or Members.
Some Members come from the worker community and other Members come from the employer community. Members are part of the WSIAT’s decision-making Panels. Members do not represent either party at the hearing. Although Members may have prior experience in the worker or employer communities, Members and Vice-Chairs approach each case with an open mind.
More information about the WSIAT’s Vice-Chairs and Members can be found here.
WSIAT decision-makers have experience and knowledge about workplace safety and insurance issues and come from different backgrounds including law, human resources, research and health. WSIAT decision-makers also receive training about legal and medical issues.
Appeals and applications may be heard in writing, in-person, by teleconference or by videoconference. Matters may also be heard using a hybrid method, that is, some participants attend in one format (for example, in-person) while other participants attend in another format (for example, by teleconference). Vice-Chairs and Panels decide how an appeal or application will be heard.
Appeals and right to sue applications can be heard by:
A single Vice-Chair
A three-member Panel, consisting of a Vice-Chair and two side Members, one from the worker community and one from the employer community.
Very rarely, a five-member Panel, including three Vice-Chairs and one Member from the worker community and one Member from the employer community.
Most WSIAT cases are heard by a single Vice-Chair.
The Chair of the WSIAT may also hear matters and can do so as a single Vice-Chair or as a member of a three or five-member Panel.
More information about how appeals and applications are assigned and heard can be found in the WSIAT’s Practice Direction: Hearing Assignments.
The WSIAT’s main office is located in Toronto, Ontario at 505 University Avenue. WSIAT in-person hearings take place in Toronto at this office.
The WSIAT also has a hearing centre located in Hamilton, Ontario. In-person hearings also take place at this hearing centre.
In addition, WSIAT in-person hearings can take place in London, Oshawa, Ottawa, Sault St. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins and Windsor. In-person hearings that take place in these locations are usually scheduled in conference rooms at local hotels.
To decide an appeal or application, WSIAT decision-makers look at the evidence to make decisions about the facts of a case. There are different types of evidence.
One type of evidence is the testimony provided by parties, including workers and employers, as well as other witnesses. Evidence also includes documents that have been provided by the parties, for example, medical reports. In WSIAT appeals, the WSIB also provides documents that are another form of evidence.
WSIAT decision-makers also listen to what the parties or their representatives have to say about the case (submissions). They then look at the law and the facts together to make a decision.
The WSIAT has broad powers to set its own practice and procedure. The WSIAT’s rules and procedures for its hearings are set out in Practice Directions and Guides.
The WSIAT can order parties and other persons to give evidence or produce documents that are required to make a decision. The WSIAT can accept oral and written evidence it considers proper even if the evidence might not be allowed in a court.
The WSIAT can also seek assistance from “health professionals” at any time before or during a WSIAT proceeding. For more information, see the WSIAT Guide: Medical Information and Medical Assessors.
The WSIAT is not bound by strict legal precedent and must make decisions based upon the merits and justice of each case. This means that while the WSIAT may consider prior WSIAT decisions when deciding a matter it is not required to follow previous decisions. In general, the WSIAT strives to make decisions in a consistent way.
In claims for benefits, when it is not practicable to decide an issue because the evidence for awarding benefits is approximately equal to the evidence against awarding benefits, the claim will be resolved in favour of the person seeking benefits. This is called the “benefit of the doubt”.
The WSIAT must apply WSIB policies, when applicable.
Overall, the WSIAT tries to make its hearings less formal than the courts and easy to understand so that all parties, regardless of representation, can meaningfully participate.
More information about WSIAT proceedings can be found here.
The WSIAT decides cases under four acts. The date of the accident determines which act applies in a case.
Most cases are decided under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA), which applies to Ontario workers who are injured in the course of their employment on or after January 1, 1998.
The WSIA replaced the Workers’ Compensation Act, which is also called the “pre-1997 Act”. The pre-1997 Act, as amended by the WSIA, continues to apply to workers who were injured in the course of their employment before January 1, 1998. The “pre-1985” and “pre-1989” Workers’ Compensation Acts also continue to apply to certain cases decided by the WSIAT depending on the date that a worker was injured.
Unlike many other Ontario administrative tribunals, the WSIAT is required to keep the personal information of workers, particularly their health information, confidential. The WSIAT is subject to confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions in both the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.
Unlike court proceedings, WSIAT proceedings are usually not open to the public. However, individuals not directly involved in the appeal or application can make a request to attend and observe a hearing. More information about how these requests are addressed can be found in the Practice Direction: Who May Attend a Hearing. More information about how the WSIAT protects the privacy of workers and employers in decisions can be found here.
The WSIAT is the final level of appeal in the Ontario workplace safety and insurance appeals system. This means that a WSIAT hearing is the last chance for a party to argue their case.
WSIAT matters can be complex so parties are encouraged to consider whether they need assistance from a representative.
More information about representing yourself and finding a representative can be found here.
In the majority of cases, the WSIAT releases its decisions within 120 days after the hearing has finished. For some matters, it may take longer to issue a decision.
WSIAT decisions are final. Nevertheless, parties can request that the WSIAT reconsider a decision. The WSIAT can reconsider a decision if it considers it advisable to do so. Reconsideration requests are rarely granted.
More information about the reconsideration process can be found in the Practice Direction: Reconsiderations.
Parties can also request that the Ontario Divisional Court judicially review a WSIAT decision. The Divisional Court is a branch of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. One part of its work is to decide applications for judicial review, which in most cases involves considering whether the decision being reviewed is reasonable (in other cases, the Divisional Court will determine whether a decision being reviewed is correct). More information about the Divisional Court can be found here.
The WSIAT is separate and independent from the WSIB and the Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) and the Office of the Employer Adviser (OEA). The WSIAT’s decisions are made completely independently from these agencies.
The WSIAT, WSIB, OWA and OEA are all important parts of the Ontario workplace safety and insurance system. When appropriate, these four separate agencies work together to promote efficiency in the overall workplace safety and insurance system.
However, the WSIB, OWA and OEA have no say in how the WSIAT makes decisions. No one can tell the Chair, a Vice-Chair or a Panel how to decide a specific appeal or application.
For more information about the WSIB, OWA and OEA see “Links to Other Agencies”.