New Year, New Coverage: Changes to Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Act

Authors: Jean Torrens, Samantha Finkbeiner, Aaron Marchadour

This blog was originally published on January 11, 2021 and has been updated to reflect the changes that took effect on April 1, 2021.

In November 2020, we discussed proposed changes to Alberta’s workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation legislation that were introduced through Bill 47, Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 (Bill 47).

The following changes to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Act came into effect on January 1, 2021:

  • Insurable earnings cap: The insurable earnings cap that was in place pre-2018 has been reinstated. This means that insured workers will only be compensated up to a maximum earnings cap. The Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) sets the maximum earnings cap and may adjust it. It is currently set at $98,700.
  • Presumptive psychological coverage: Presumptive coverage for traumatic psychological injuries now applies only to firefighters, police officers, peace officers, correctional officers, paramedics and emergency dispatchers. Other types of workers may still access coverage for work-related psychological injuries through the regular claim process if  there is sufficient evidence to support the claim.
  • Cost of living adjustment calculation: Cost of living adjustments are now set by the WCB, rather than being automatically adjusted based on consumer price index. Workers eligible for a cost of living increase will receive 0.84% as of January 1, 2021.
  • Reduction of benefits for egregious conduct: If an injured worker is terminated from modified work for egregious conduct, the WCB will be able to reduce or cease wage replacement benefits.

Other changes to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Act came into effect April 1, 2021, including the following:

  • Employers will no longer be required to contribute to group health and benefit plans for injured workers who are off work, although they may voluntarily do so. We recommend employers speak with legal counsel prior to electing to discontinue benefits.
  • Employers and employees will have a shared duty to co-operate in their workers’ safe return to work, rather than an employer having a duty to reinstate workers after a workplace injury.
  • The roster of independent medical examiners available for selection by an injured worker will be maintained by the WCB.
  • The time limit to appeal a WCB decision to the Appeals Commission will be reduced from two years to one year.

All employers governed by Alberta workplace legislation should be mindful of the full list of changes, including those effective April 1, 2021, which can be reviewed here. MLT Aikins is available to help employers better understand these changes and the particular impact they may have on your organization.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice.