Area of Law: Workers' Compensation
Answer # 640
Survivor benefitsRegion: Ontario Answer # 640
Who can receive survivor benefits?
Under the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, the immediate family members and dependants of a worker may be eligible for Workplace Safety and Insurance (WSIB) survivor benefits if a worker dies because of a work-related injury or disease. The amount of the benefits is based on the age of the surviving spouse, when the worker died and the number of dependent children.
Who is considered a spouse?
Under the Act, for the purposes of receiving benefits a spouse is defined as a person:
- to whom a person is married, or
- with whom the person is living in a conjugal relationship outside marriage if the two persons
- have cohabited for at least one year
- are together the parents of a child , or
- have together entered into a cohabitation agreement under s.53 of the Family Law Act.
When more than one person fits the definition of spouse, benefits are split between them.
When are children eligible for benefits?
For children to be eligible to receive benefits, at the time the worker died, the children must have been:
- under the age of 19, or
- 19 or over, but due to physical or mental impairment were completely dependent on worker, or
- under the age of 30 and enrolled in an educational program.
What benefits are available?
Benefits paid to immediate family workers of the deceased worker may include:
- survivor payments (lump-sum and monthly)
- funeral and transportation costs
- bereavement counselling
- support for spouses looking to re-enter the workforce
Can separated spouses receive survivor benefits?
A separated spouse may also be entitled to benefits. This is the case if:
- immediately before the workers’ death, the worker had been required to make support payments established by a separation agreement or court order, or
- the separated spouse was otherwise financially dependent on the worker at the time of the worker’s death.
What benefit payments can you receive?
Payments to survivors, including eligible separated spouses, include both a lump-sum payment as well as monthly payments that continue for life.
The lump-sum payment amount is based on the age of the spouse at the time of the worker’s death, using age 40 as the starting point. The amount decreases for every year that the spouse was older than 40 at the time of the worker’s death, and increases for every year that the spouse was younger than 40 at the time of the worker’s death. There is a minimum and maximum amount payable, and the base amount and percentage by which the base amount is increased or decreased is determined by the yearly Consumer Price Index (CPI).
How are monthly benefits determined?
There may also be monthly payments paid. The monthly compensation for a spouse and child is based on a percentage of the worker’s net average earnings, up-to the annual maximum. Net average earnings include earnings at the time of death, less deductions for income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and employment insurance premiums. WSIB will also take into consideration any CPP or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) benefits already being paid to the surviving spouse.
The spousal monthly payment amount is also based on the age of the spouse at the time of the worker’s death. For every year the surviving spouse is younger than 40, the monthly benefit payment decreases 1%, to a minimum of 20%. The monthly benefit payment increases 1% for every year the spouse is older than 40, to a maximum of 60%.
How do income tax and government pensions affect benefits?
WSIB benefits are based on a percentage of the worker’s net average earnings, up to the annual maximum. Net average earnings include earnings at the time of death, less deductions for income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums. WSIB will also take into consideration any CPP or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) benefits already being paid to the surviving spouse.
Who does the WSIB give the payment to?
If an injured or ill worker is incapable of managing their own affairs, the WSIB will direct benefits to any person who holds a power of attorney for property for that worker. If there is no power of attorney, the WSIB will give the benefits to a guardian, if appointed under the Substitute Decisions Act, to hold and use the benefits on behalf of the worker or the survivor. If no guardian or attorney has been appointed, the WSIB may direct the benefits to an informal guardian if it feels that the individual suitable, willing, and able to administer benefits on behalf of the worker. Informal guardians can include the worker’s spouse, parent, dependant, near relative, or friend.
Refer to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for current lump-sum and monthly benefit amounts.
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