By Robert Koci
As promised, we approached the Ontario Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) with the questions our readers asked as he was being audited. (See “Another contractor enters WSIB hell”) Here are the responses we were given. (comments and questions from the reader are in italics and WSIB response follows):
Our number came up and we were randomly selected by WSIB to be audited. While we are an above board company, we have not always be fully diligent receiving all the clearance certificates and are worried that we are going to be back-charged for any smaller sub-trades who may not be registered.
“It is possible that an employer will be back-charged if an audit finds that a sub has employees and didn’t register with the WSIB. The amount charged would be determined by the labour portion of the contract. If the sub is registered with the WSIB, their account must be in good standing. This is why it is very important for contractors to get clearances from any subs prior to the start of a job so they can avoid any liability. They should also make sure the clearances are kept up to date until all work on the contract is completed.”
This whole process got me to thinking about the bill 119 regarding mandatory coverage for construction owners. I heard that renovation companies are exempt. But if I read the FAQ on the WSIB website regarding this issue, it seems to suggest that the exemption is only for one renovator per company. Any additional partners must pay with the proviso of one additional exemption.
“The new mandatory coverage legislation applies to independent operators, executive officers of a corporation and partners in a partnership working in construction who have no workers.
“The home renovation exemption applies to individuals (independent operators and others mentioned above) with no workers who only perform home renovation work AND are hired directly by the homeowner. In this case, the new law does not apply to them and they do not have to register with the WSIB. But, as soon as any commercial work is done, mandatory coverage is required for all construction work performed.
“Employers with workers, who perform home renovation work must still have WSIB coverage for their workers, but the owners do not have to have coverage for themselves. Once any commercial construction work is performed, the owner must report the material change to the WSIB and coverage for the owner would then be automatic.
“If a contractor is hired directly by a homeowner and then subs out some of the work to another contractor, that subcontractor is not exempt and must have WSIB coverage. In addition, the contractor is now required by the legislation to obtain a clearance certificate before the construction work begins.”
… to me, this means if a company has two or more equal partners who all work some of the time on the tools, only one will be exempt and the rest will pay.
“All partners are exempt from the law if they do home renovation work only AND are retained directly by the homeowner.”
The answer also says that the additional exempt individual can never spend a day on the site; so when times are busy or when a partner is on holidays we have to stay off the site or fudge our records and hope we don’t get hurt. Is that how you would read this?
“We’re currently working on policies to address this concern. More details will be released soon.”
I would call and ask, but they always ask for our account number and I don’t want to be flagged. Is that a reasonable concern?
“We ask for the account number so we are able to provide better customer service by answering questions that are specifically addressed to the employer’s situation. We do not flag anyone for an audit based on their questions – we simply want to provide the best information possible.”
If someone wants to ask a question by phone, can he remain anonymous?
“Anyone who calls for information can certainly decline to provide their account number. This is not required for us to answer their questions.”