FAQs: OWA Services

 

What can the OWA do for me? 

The Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) is an independent agency of the Ontario Ministry of Labour. We provide free and confidential advice and assistance to non-unionized workers who have experienced occupational health and safety reprisals or have been injured at work. 

The OWA can help you by: 

  • providing information on workplace insurance and the appeal process 

  • representing non-unionized injured workers and survivors of injured workers at all levels of workplace insurance appeals

  • assisting with early and safe return to work and work transition

  • providing information on occupational health and safety reprisals 

  • representing non-unionized workers who have been threatened or punished by their employers for following occupational health and safety laws or trying to enforce them 

  • referring workers to appropriate community resources 

  • providing free information materials 

 

Is the OWA part of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) or the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)?  

No. The OWA is separate from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).  The OWA is an independent agency of the Ontario Ministry of Labour.  

 

Does the Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) charge for services? 

No. The OWA provides its services for free.  

 

Are the OWA’s services confidential? 

Yes. The OWA’s services are confidential. 

 

What if I already have a representative assisting me with my case? 

Whether your case is before the WSIB, the WSIAT or the OLRB, you are only allowed to have one formal representative assisting you with your case. If you have hired a lawyer or licenced paralegal to represent you, the OWA cannot assist you at the same time. 

If the OWA confirms that you are eligible for our representations services and you would like the OWA to assist you, then you must advise your other representative in writing that you no longer need their services. You also have to write a letter to the WSIB, the WSIAT or the OLRB and state that your other representative is no longer representing you in your case.  

 

What if I belong to a union?

Unionized workers are not eligible to receive OWA services and should contact their respective unions for assistance.

If you are a member of a union, OWA staff can:

  • inform you about any time limits for action in your case

  • refer you back to your union for help

 

Who is considered a member of a union?

Workplace insurance matters

The OWA considers you to be a member of a union if you are a bargaining unit member in a unionized workplace and you were injured in that workplace.

The OWA will be able to help you and will usually not consider you to be a union member if:

  • you were injured in a unionized workplace, but now work in a non-union workplace

  • you retired, resigned, or otherwise left your job at a unionized workplace

  • you were laid off or otherwise lost your job at a unionized workplace (unless you were dismissed and want help enforcing the employer's re-employment obligations)

  • you are now working in a unionized workplace, but your claim is for an injury that occurred with another employer

  • you are on a hiring hall list, but have not worked during the past 12 months, or

  • you are a survivor of a unionized worker who died as a result of a workplace injury or disease. 

Occupational health & safety reprisal issues 

The OWA considers you to be a member of a union if your occupational health and safety reprisal complaint is about a job in which you were a member of a union. 

 

What can I do if my union will not represent me? 

In some situations, smaller locals may not have staff trained to assist with workplace insurance or occupational health and safety reprisal issues. For unions affiliated with the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), you may contact the OFL directly at 1-800-668-9138 for alternate referrals. 

 

What is self-help? 

In some cases, OWA staff can only provide information and can not offer representation services.  In these situations, we will provide you with free information materials on relevant topics.  

By reviewing the written materials and speaking with an OWA Client Service Representative, you may be able to help yourself with your case.  

 

What if I have a question that isn’t answered here?  

If you have a question that is not answered in the FAQs, you can contact the OWA for more information.

If you have a workplace insurance issue, you can contact the Office of the Worker Adviser by phoning toll free:

1-800-435-8980 (Service in English)
1-800-661-6365 (Service in French)
1-866-445-3092 (TTY)

If you have an occupational health and safety reprisal issue, you can contact the Office of the Worker Adviser by phoning: 

1-855-659-7744 (toll free)
416-212-5335 (Toronto)
 

January 2013

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

This publication contains general information only. It is not legal advice about a particular situation and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified representative. This publication was last updated on the revision date listed above.