Workers' Compensation: Foundations for Reform


360 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-8239-4
DDC 368.4'1'00971




Edited by Morley Gunderson and Douglas Hyatt
Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


The Canadian workers’ compensation system is nearly a century old. In
return for giving up the right to sue employers for work injuries,
workers got a comprehensive no-fault system of compensation, funded
collectively by the employers through an “accident fund.”

This system is now under extreme pressure, with a whole range of
injuries and diseases now threatening workers’ health, such as
cardiovascular disease, chronic stress, musculo-skeletal injury, and
chronic diseases like occupational cancer. For the most part, workers
have difficulty in proving that their affliction is work-related and a
vast number of injuries go uncompensated by the system, with few
alternative sources of compensation available to disabled workers. To
relax the test of “work-related” would open the system to a flood of
claims that the accident fund, however enlarged, could not meet. On the
other hand, to restrict the scope of claims allowed (which is now being
done) is not only unjust but would bring back civil suits in a big way.

In the view of the editors of this wide-ranging collection of articles,
the current system cannot long survive in its present form. Broadly,
they propose three sorts of remedy. The first is to strengthen the
prevention of workplace injuries by tougher regulations and financial
incentives placed on employers. This would cut down on the toll of
workplace carnage and take pressure off the compensation system. The
second is “proportional compensation,” whereby the extent of
work-relatedness is calculated and compensated, plus a supplement from
other public sources. The third is a no-fault universal disability
system in which all injuries and diseases are compensated irrespective
of cause, with the system funded partly by employers and partly by some
form of social security.

The essays in the book are of uneven quality, which makes them
misleading to a reader not well versed in the field. By no stretch of
the imagination do they provide “foundations for reform.”


“Workers' Compensation: Foundations for Reform,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,