It’s time for the Ombudsman to investigate the WSIAT

It now takes over two years to get an appeal heard by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT). The Ombudsman tells us, in his most recent annual report, that he’s considering a systemic investigation of the problem. There has already been some action behind the scenes:

Senior Ombudsman staff met with WSIAT’s chair, representatives of the Ministry of Labour, and other government representatives to remind them of the human impact of these delays and urge them to work together to find a solution. The Ombudsman is monitoring the situation and the Ministry’s response to it, to assess whether a systemic investigation is warranted.

In my view, a systemic investigation is warranted, and immediately too. As I’ll explain using the WSIAT’s own data, the current situation—in which the level of delay goes far beyond what is tolerable in any reasonable administrative justice system—is the result of a backlog of appeals that has been steadily increasing for the last four years and, despite the WSIAT’s rather extraordinary public pleas for help (in 2013, 2014 and 2015), there has been no effective response from the government.

Nor is there any reason to believe an effective response will be forthcoming: even as things currently stand, there is little prospect of improvement, and when the impact of the ten-year limit on appointments comes into effect next year, the situation will grow far, far worse. Continue reading