This blog was originally published on March 24, 2020.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Alberta Government’s declaration of a public health emergency, the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) has issued both employer and employee COVID-19 Fact Sheets to address claims relating to workers who have contracted COVID-19 while at work.
A worker will be only entitled to compensation through WCB if they contract COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment. In order to be eligible for compensation, the following requirements must be met:
- The nature of employment involves sufficient exposure to the source of COVID-19; and
- The nature of employment:
- is shown to be the cause of the condition, or
- creates a greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 for the worker.
In circumstances where the above criteria are met, contracting COVID-19 will be considered a work-related incident and should therefore be reported to WCB. Workers who may be eligible for compensation due to the contraction of COVID-19 while at work include not only health care professionals, but also other hospital workers, such as administrative staff or food service staff, grocery store workers, and food delivery workers due to the fact that their employment creates a greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. Medical confirmation of COVID-19 is not required to be eligible for WCB compensation. The presence of symptoms may be sufficient for entitlement if the above criteria are met. Whether the above criteria are met will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Employers are not required to report a case of COVID-19 in the event that a worker believes they may have contracted the virus from a co-worker or customer if the above criteria have not been met.
On March 23, 2020, Jason Kenny announced that small, medium and large private sector employers can defer WCB premium payments until 2021. Further, the government will waive 50% of the 2020 WCB premium for small and medium businesses when it becomes due in 2021. There will be no waiver of premiums for large private sector businesses. The average small business is expected to save about $1,000 and the average medium business is expected to save about $20,000 this year. It is estimated that the waiver of small and medium private section WCB premiums for 2020 will cost the government approximately $350 million.
Employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020-2021 are eligible for a rebate or credit for what was paid toward the 2020 premiums. More information regarding premium relief for employers can be found here.
Workers will not suffer any loss of WCB benefits due to work disruptions as a result of COVID-19. For example, if an employer is required to close their operation and employees are not being paid by the employer during the shutdown, workers who were working modified duties due to a previous workplace injury will receive wage replacement benefits.
Both the employer and employee COVID-19 Fact Sheets can be found online:
Our Labour and Employment team remains committed to assisting employers with any questions regarding the management of their workforce during this time.