Spouses of Deceased Workers to Receive Retroactive Benefits

February 13, 2006

According to the Workplace Health, Safety & Compensation Commission of New Foundland and Labrador (Canada), 58 women whose husbands were fatally injured before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ equality rights provision (Section 15) was implemented in 1985 are going to receive a total of approximately $3 million in retroactive workers’ compensation spousal benefits.

Paul Shelley, minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and minister responsible for the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission and Joan Burke, minister responsible for the Status of Women, reported that the provincial government will amend legislation to pay retroactive benefits to surviving spouses who re-married prior to 1985.

Shelley said government’s decision ensures that the women who re-married before 1985 and those who re-married after 1985 are treated consistently and fairly. “These women and their families have suffered physically, emotionally and economically. They have been seeking a resolution for some time and we believe that paying retroactive benefits is the right thing to do. I am very pleased that today we are able to level the playing field for these women so they receive the same retroactive pay awarded to their peers.”

Years ago, when the spouse of a fatally injured worker re-married, spousal benefits were terminated. The “termination upon remarriage” regulation was later changed and all surviving spouses had their benefits reinstated. Those who re-married before 1985, however, were not paid retroactive benefits from when the equality rights provision of the Charter took effect in 1985 to the date of reinstatement in 1993. It is for this period that they will now receive retroactive payments.

“This decision means that all women whose husbands were fatally injured so many years ago will now be compensated equally,” said Burke. “Marital status cannot be used to prevent women from accessing benefits. This case is an example of how government must be diligent to ensure discriminatory regulations and policies are changed and special measures are taken to advance the status of all women.”

The cost to the workers’ comp system is not expected to impact the commission’s target to be fully funded by 2016, as required by government.

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