Fair Practices Office
Effective date: December 1, 2016
Application: Applies to workers, employers and external service providers who raise issues regarding service deliver on and after the effective date.
Policy subject: General
To establish the mandate for the WCB Fair Practices Office.
- The Fair Practices Office (FPO) was established in September 2003 with the appointment of the Fair Practices Officer. This position was created in response to recommendations by the James Dorsey Review in 2000 and the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Act Committee of Review 2001 Report.
- The establishment of the FPO is supported by Section 19(1)(a) of The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013 (the “Act”), which directs that the WCB shall treat workers and their dependants in a fair and reasonable manner.
- The Fair Practices Officer is appointed under Section 186 of the Act and can, in accordance with the role and mandate established by the Board, investigate and make recommendations relating to any matter pursuant to this Act, including claims or assessment matters, in which the worker, dependant or employer asserts that he or she has been aggrieved.
- Section 172 of the Act directs that, subject to Sections 173 and 174, no member and no person authorized to make an inspection or inquiry pursuant to this Act shall divulge or allow to be divulged any information obtained by him or her that came to their knowledge in carrying out their duties or in exercising their powers pursuant to this Act unless:
- Required or permitted pursuant to this Act
- Authorized to do so by the board, or
- Ordered to do so by a court.
- Access to information held by the FPO in accordance with Sections 25 and 186(4) of the Act is subject to the provisions of Section 172 of the Act.
Establishment and status of the FPO
- The FPO is to function as an independent office within the WCB, to address inquiries and issues of service delivery raised by workers, dependants, employers and external service providers.
- The conduct of the FPO shall reflect the WCB Value Statements with respect to dignity, fairness, honesty and openness.
Appointment and qualifications of the Fair Practices Officer
- The Fair Practices Officer is required to be a person of recognized knowledge, judgment, objectivity and integrity with demonstrated skills in problem solving and dispute resolution.
- The appointment and termination of the Fair Practices Officer is the responsibility of the Board Members.
- The Fair Practices Officer is an employee of the WCB and their terms and conditions of employment are consistent with the WCB’s Human Resources policies.
Role and mandate of the FPO
- The FPO has a mandate to:
- Subject to Point 12 below, receive, investigate and resolve inquiries about unfair practices in all areas of service delivery raised by workers, dependants, employers and external service providers, and
- Identify policy matters and systemic issues arising from inquiries, inquiry trends, and make recommendations for improvements.
- If upon completion of an investigation as referenced in Point 6(a) above, the Fair Practices Officer determines that an unfair practice has occurred, he or she will attempt to resolve the issue at the most appropriate administrative level of the WCB. If the Fair Practices Officer does not believe that the appropriate remedy has been implemented, he or she will raise the matter to senior management levels of the WCB, including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Unresolved issues will be reported to the Chairperson.
- Trends, policy and systemic issues identified from inquiries may be investigated by the FPO with approval of the Board. The findings and recommendations will initially be presented to senior management within the WCB, including the CEO, and then to the Chairperson.
- The FPO will decline to investigate any inquiry that does not fall within its mandate as set out in this policy. The FPO may decline to investigate an inquiry based upon considerations such as merits or timeliness. Issues that a person had knowledge of for more than one year, and did not actively pursue, will generally not be accepted by the FPO.
- The Fair Practices Officer will annually report in the WCB Annual Report, which may include statistics on the number and types of inquiries received, services rendered and inquiries resolved. The annual report may indicate FPO recommendations if not accepted by management or acted upon within a reasonable period of time.
- The Fair Practices Officer will report to the Chairperson on a quarterly basis or more frequently as requested by the Chairperson or the Fair Practices Officer.
- In accordance with Point 1 above, the FPO has jurisdiction to investigate inquiries related to all areas of service delivery of the WCB including, but not limited to:
- Delays in adjudication, communication, referrals and payment.
- Conduct of staff.
- Verbal and written communications.
- Implementation of appeal findings.
- Revenue and employer accounts.
- Benefit payments, and
- Misapplication of policy.
- In conducting an investigation, the FPO will have within normal WCB working hours and with reasonable notice:
- Unfettered access to all files, documents and other materials in the possession of the WCB relating to the matter under investigation, and
- Unfettered access to all WCB employees.
- An inquiry is not within the jurisdiction of the FPO if it pertains to:
- Conduct or a decision of the Board Members.
- Changes to the Act or its regulations.
- An issue outside of the jurisdiction of the WCB.
- An issue in the appeal process, with respect to which the right of appeal has not been exhausted.
- Any issue under appeal to the Appeals Department or Board Appeal Tribunal.
- Any decision of the Appeals Department or Board Appeal Tribunal.
- An issue being handled by the Office of the Workers’ Advocate, unless the Workers’ Advocate requests that the FPO review the inquiry.
- An issue referred by WCB staff (e.g., human resource issues), and
- An alleged illegal or fraudulent act. Allegations of this nature will be referred to the investigative unit within Internal Audit.
- Notwithstanding Point 14(h) above, the FPO may investigate inquiries by WCB staff in their capacity as injured workers.
Standards of practice
- The FPO will adhere to the following standards of practice:
- The FPO is independent of WCB operations.
- The Fair Practices Officer reports directly to the Board Members through the WCB Chairperson.
- Within its mandate, the FPO exercises sole discretion over whether or how to act regarding an individual concern.
- The Fair Practices Officer holds no other position within the WCB which may compromise independence.
- Neutrality and impartiality:
- The Fair Practices Officer maintains a moral duty of impartiality and the FPO cannot act as an individual’s advocate or representative.
- The FPO treats all parties to an inquiry with dignity and respect and approaches issues with an open mind. The FPO has a responsibility to consider the legitimate concerns and interests of all individuals affected by the matter under consideration.
- The Fair Practices Officer conducts investigations and makes recommendations for any remedial or corrective actions based on the findings of the investigation.
- The FPO helps develop a range of responsible options to resolve problems and facilitates discussion to identify the best options.
- Any person seeking the assistance of the Fair Practices Officer may request confidentiality with respect to that inquiry. If such a request is made, no information related to that inquiry will be disclosed unless the person subsequently gives permission to do so, or if there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm, or if there appears to be no other reasonable option, as determined by the Fair Practices Officer. However, any person requesting such confidentiality will be advised that such a request may prevent communication of key information about their inquiry to appropriate areas of the WCB and limit the ability of the FPO to resolve their issue. They will also be advised that all records of the Fair Practice Office are accessible under the provisions of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
- Unless the person making the inquiry has requested confidentiality, the FPO will enter all information relevant to that inquiry on the appropriate WCB claim or employer file. The FPO will maintain a separate database for those inquiries on which confidentially has been requested, which will only be accessible by staff of the FPO. Any information already contained in that database at the effective date of this policy will be maintained as if the person making those inquiries has requested confidentiality.
- Access to information held by the FPO in accordance with Sections 25 and 186(4) of the Act is subject to Section 172 of the Act.
- The FPO prepares any data or reports in a manner that protects all requested confidentiality and safeguards the identity of the individuals who made such requests. All records maintained by the FPO for the purpose of receiving, investigating, and resolving inquiries upon which requests for confidentiality have been made, will be kept in secure storage which prevents access or inspection by any other person, subject to disclosure required by The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or this policy.
- Informality and other standards:
- The FPO acts in an informal manner by such means as listening, providing and receiving information, identifying and reframing issues and developing a range of reasonable options to resolve the problem.
- Where the FPO has made a recommendation, that recommendation is not binding and the office has no authority to make binding decisions.
- The FPO does not replace existing appeal procedures within the WCB and the FPO has no authority where a matter has entered the appeal process (i.e. Appeals Department, Assessment Committee and Board Members).
- The FPO identifies trends, issues, and concerns about WCB policies and procedures arising from inquiries, including potential future issues and concerns and provides recommendations for responsibly addressing them.
- The Fair Practices Officer keeps professionally current by pursuing continuing education and relevant training and provides opportunities for FPO staff to pursue professional training.
- The Fair Practices Officer adheres to the Saskatchewan WCB Code of Conduct and Ethics and other WCB administrative policies.
- The Board Members approve the budget of the FPO with input from the Fair Practices Officer.
- The Fair Practices Officer will manage the operating budget and will hire and manage the staff of the FPO. To facilitate the management of the FPO and its arm’s length relation to operating areas and management of WCB, the Fair Practices Officer is authorized to execute agreements with third parties on behalf of the FPO and pay expenses in connection with the ongoing operations of the FPO, provided that the expenditures are within the approved budget of the FPO and generally follow the principles of WCB administrative policies.
- The Board Members may request that periodic independent reviews be conducted to evaluate the position of the Fair Practices Officer and or the operations of the FPO.
- Internal Audit may from time to time audit the FPO.
(1) POL 14/2013, Fair Practices Office (effective January 1, 2014 to November 30, 2016).
(2) POL 15/2010, Fair Practices Office (effective June 1, 2010 to December 31, 2013).
(3) POL 05/2009, Fair Practices Office (effective September 17, 2009 to May 31, 2010).
(4) September 2003, Fair Practices Office established with the appointment of a Fair Practices Officer. Initial responsibilities outlined in “Mandate and Role, Fair Practices Office”.