For many injured workers, eligibility for WCB-sponsored retraining would have them champing at the bit.
And indeed, by all appearances, the fruits of no-cost retraining seem utterly delectable. And in some cases, higher education certainly opens doors for disabled workers that would otherwise remain sealed. So why wouldn’t claimants naturally line up for WCB retraining services, right?
Because there’s a catch.
For some who rush into retraining without parsing the fine print, they’re in for a shock when they discover the ‘Grand Bargain’. Because like any other insurance company, WCB is always looking to mitigate future liabilities. And one way the Board accomplishes this is by ensuring guaranteed returns on their investments. And so, where money is vested in a worker i.e., retraining, it’s only because the Board’s balance sheet stands to benefit. Now, you may ask yourself, how does WCB guarantee a return? To understand how, bear in mind that retraining is sponsored only when a worker is unable to recoup pre-accident earnings due to permanent medical restrictions. In other words, only when a long-term payout is unavoidable will WCB look to enhance post-accident earnings potential to reduce future entitlements.
That hardly sounds terrible — you’re thinking. True enough. Not so bad. But now enter the Grand Bargain.
According to WCB policy, the Board does not guarantee employment following a training program; rather, WCB promises to improve a worker’s employability. That is, upon completion of retraining, the Board becomes rather aloof to whether employment is actually secured in the newly selected field of work. And this is because — and here’s the kicker — once a worker is retrained, wage-loss benefits are no longer based on actual pre-accident earnings, but rather, on hypothetical post-accident earnings. In plain language, this means that after school finishes up, injured workers are effectively on their own, left to fend for themselves, employment or no employment.
But what if the economy or job markets take a sudden turn? Well, WCB will send its regrets. And when an injured worker finds that a newly-minted certificate/diploma/degree/designation isn’t sufficient to compete for a job — that employers want to see relevant work experience along with credentials — what then? WCB will offer heartfelt sympathies. What about cases where retraining is found to be a poor fit, or the injured worker flunks out? WCB will express remorse whilst potentially suspending all benefits on account of non-compliance.
What this all amounts to, regardless of the worker’s fate, is that WCB can’t lose.
It’s imperative that injured workers understand the consequences of sponsored tuition before taking the leap. Free schooling sounds wonderful, until perhaps, its understood that wage supplements are sacrificed per the Grand Bargain. When the ink dries, in exchange for subsidized training, wage-loss benefits become payable on the basis of theoretical estimated earnings, notwithstanding one’s employment status. And so, before signing that dotted line to embark on a novel career path, ask yourself:
- Do I have relevant or related experience to supplement new credentials?
- Did I research job opportunities in the new field? Are there actual vacancies in my locale? Are my income expectations inflated?
- Am I blindly trusting WCB’s labour market assessment (LMA)? Is the LMA current?
- What happens if I end up hating the new profession? Do I have a natural aptitude for the new endeavor? Am I prepared to jeopardize my benefits if I decide to quit before completion?
- Do I have the energy, discipline, devotion and free time to start from scratch in a new vocation? Am I willing to accept entry-level wages until I build experience?
- Will my health hold up? What if I go downhill? How will WCB react if I’m forced to quit retraining due to declining health?
The final word
Injured workers facing the prospect of retraining are strongly encouraged to contact an experienced advocacy firm such as Blue Collar Consulting. Because quite literally, the consequences of decisions made at this stage are most often irreversible.