COVID-19 Info

COVID-19 – Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Originally Posted: March 13, 2020

Updated: March 30, 2020

 

With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic, Canadian employers should prepare for the worst and plan how to respond to various employment-related issues that could arise if the virus continues to spread.

Employers are raising many questions about workers’ compensation coverage and reporting responsibilities.

Throughout Canada, the various provincial workers’ compensation boards have provided guidelines relating to the coverage of benefits for COVID-19 cases. Most instances of COVID-19 aren’t work-related and don’t need to be reported to them. However, they acknowledge that there may be a few exceptions based on the nature of employment and the extent of exposure to the source of infection.

In every case, the various provincial compensation boards are likely to adjudicate work relatedness and benefit entitlement based on the specific circumstances of each case.

TeksMed Services Inc. has outlined general answers to some of the questions its plan sponsor clients are asking during this pandemic.

The following pages address questions regarding COVID-19 and workers’ compensation.

 

Questions and Answers

 

When is COVID-19 considered to be work-related?

When a worker contracts COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment, they are likely to be entitled to compensation providing certain criteria relating to the nature of their employment and the extent of their work-related exposure are met. WCB Alberta has outlined that the following conditions must be met:

  • The nature of employment involves sufficient exposure to the source of infection,

and

  • The nature of employment is shown to be the cause of the condition,

or

  • The nature of employment creates a greater risk of exposure for the worker.

 

Work-related example:

Acute care hospital worker: Worker has patients coming in for treatment of COVID-19. Thus, they are at greater risk than the general public of contracting the disease.

 

Non work-related examples:

Cafeteria worker at a hospital: Job is not directly related to looking after sick people even if workers sometimes come in contact with them.

Grocery store clerk: Job puts worker in contact with many people but not specifically sick people

 

When do I report a case of COVID-19 to provincial workers’ compensation board (WCB)?

Like in the examples provided, if your worker is at greater risk than the general public of contracting the virus while at work and they lose time from work after contracting the virus, the claim must be reported to the provincial workers’ compensation board.

However, if your staff is not at greater risk than the general public of contracting the infection, there is most likely no need to report. Examples include people who believe they caught the COVID-19 virus from a co-worker or client.

 

Do I report cases where one staff member caught COVID-19 from a co-worker?

No. Coronaviruses like COVID-19 can be caught through contacts in the community, home or work.

 

Are workers covered when quarantined, self-isolated or practicing social distancing?

No, the provincial workers’ compensation boards do not provide coverage for workers who are symptom-free when quarantined, self-isolated, practicing social distancing or sent home on a precautionary basis.

 

If I believe my staff is at greater risk than the general public of exposure at work (typically acute health care field), do I need to report all exposures?

No, you only need to report lost-time claims of occupational disease exposure to the provincial WCB. If workers were exposed to the virus but develop no symptoms, the incident should be recorded in your records but you do not need to report it to the provincial WCB.

 

I’m an employer whose staff is at greater risk of exposure at work than the general public. I sent my worker home because there’s a high risk of exposure. Do I need to report it to the provincial WCB?

No, if there is no illness, there is no claim. There’s no need to report this to the provincial WCB.

 

What happens if an employee is exposed to COVID-19 while travelling?

Employees will likely be able to claim benefits if symptoms follow exposure during any work-related travel. Entitlement to benefits extends to people traveling in the course of employment. As such, if an employee is required to travel for business and in the course of that travel is suspected to have contracted COVID-19, the employee could likely claim benefits.

 

What happens when I submit a COVID-19 claim?

Like any other claim, the provincial WCB must determine whether exposure to the disease arose out of the course of employment and was caused by an employment hazard (in this case, workplace exposure to the virus).

 

Will my staff continue to receive benefits if we shut down operations due to COVID-19?

Certain provincial workers’ compensation boards, for example Ontario’s Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) have specified that employees will continue to receive the same wage-loss benefits, full or partial, that were being received at the time of the employer’s shut down. If no wage-loss benefits were received at the time of shut down, for example in case where modified duties are being performed, then no wage-loss benefits would be provided. However, WorkSafeBC has recently announced that in the event a worker is on modified duties and the worksite shuts down, wage-loss benefits to the worker will resume if the employer is not paying the worker during the shutdown. In addition, wage-loss benefits may be payable to workers who are unable to return to modified duties due to quarantine/self-isolation; relief of costs may be considered for this period so as to avoid unfairness to the employer.

 

Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-changing global event which may impact the stance of the Government of Canada as well as the various provincial workers’ compensation boards, thus updates will be provided when new information is made available.

We commend WCB AB for quickly providing clarification on their stance on COVID-19 which served as reference and source material for this article.

Source: https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/wcb-covid-19-employer-fact-sheet.pdf

For more information on occupational disability management and workers’ compensation matters please feel free to reach out to TeksMed at info@teksmed.com.

To further assist you, please review our companion article, “COVID-19 – Short Term Disability Coverage and Sick Leave” which sets out some of the emerging questions and answers.

 

Statements from various workers’ compensation board regarding COVID-19 claims can be found below:

 

WorkSafeBC:

https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/claims/information-for-employers

“When a worker contracts COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment, they are entitled to compensation if the following conditions are met:

1.  Evidence that the worker has contracted COVID-19, either:

    • a medical diagnosis in a medical report, or
    • non-medical factual evidence where other evidence establishes the existence of COVID-19.

2. The nature of the worker’s employment created a risk of contracting the disease significantly greater than the ordinary exposure risk of the public at large.

A work-related example would be an acute care hospital worker, who is treating patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. In these cases, they are at greater risk than the general public of contracting the disease.

Claims submitted for COVID-19 contracted through a work-related exposure are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. WorkSafeBC will look at details such as whether the worker has a diagnosis of COVID-19, their symptoms, and their employment activities.”

 

WCB Alberta:

https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/wcb-covid-19-employer-fact-sheet.pdf

“When a worker contracts COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment, they are entitled to compensation if the following conditions are met:

The nature of employment involves sufficient exposure to the source of infection, -and-

The nature of employment is shown to be the cause of the condition, -or-

The nature of employment creates a greater risk of exposure for the worker.”

 

WCB Saskatchewan:

http://www.wcbsask.com/information-for-workers-on-covid-19/

“A worker may be entitled to compensation should they contract COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment. Generally the employment would need to put the employee at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general public. Based on WCB policy, Injuries – Communicable Disease (POL 02/2010), the following conditions must be met:

There is confirmed exposure to the disease in the workplace.

PLUS

The time period that the illness is contracted is in close proximity to the confirmed workplace exposure.

OR

The nature of employment creates a greater risk of exposure for the worker than to the general population.”

 

WCB Manitoba:

https://www.wcb.mb.ca/how-the-wcb-is-responding-to-covid-19

“Most instances of COVID-19 are not work related. However, if you experience symptoms and believe you may have contracted the COVID -19 virus as a direct result of your employment, please contact our offices at 204-954-4321 or email us at wcb@wcb.mb.ca

We determine whether a claim is related to work and what benefits will be provided based on the specific and unique circumstances of each individual case.”

 

WSIB Ontario:

https://www.wsib.ca/en/novel-coronavirus-covid-19-update

https://www.wsib.ca/sites/default/files/2020-03/adjudicativeapproachnovelcoronavirus.pdf


“In determining the work-relatedness of COVID-19 claims, the decision-maker will consider whether:

  1. the nature of the worker’s employment created a risk of contracting the disease to which the public at large is not normally exposed; and
  2. the WSIB is satisfied that the worker’s COVID-19 condition has been confirmed.

If established, the above will generally be considered persuasive evidence that the worker’s employment made a significant contribution to the worker’s illness. Claims which do not meet these guidelines will be reviewed on their own merit, having regard to circumstances of the individual case.”

“While the nature of some people’s work may put them at greater risk of contracting the virus, for example those treating someone with COVID-19, this is a constantly evolving situation and any claims received by the WSIB will need to be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the facts and circumstances.

Please note: The WSIB does not provide coverage for people who are symptom-free even when quarantined or sent home on a precautionary basis. However, should someone who is symptom-free develop symptoms or illness while on quarantine, they may be eligible for WSIB coverage.”

 

CNESST Quebec:

https://www.cnesst.gouv.qc.ca/salle-de-presse/Pages/coronavirus.aspx

“21. Un travailleur qui aurait contracté le coronavirus (COVID-19) par une exposition dans son milieu de travail peut-il être indemnisé?

Oui, les travailleurs atteints de la COVID-19 qui auraient été infectés au cours de leur emploi pourraient avoir droit aux prestations et aux services habituels offerts par la Loi sur les accidents du travail et les maladies professionnelles.

Pour ce faire, le travailleur doit consulter un médecin qui posera le diagnostic, aviser son employeur et remplir la réclamation du travailleur qu’il fera parvenir à la CNESST. Le travailleur devra démontrer qu’il a été en contact avec le virus par le fait ou à l’occasion de son travail. Le lien avec le travail devra être démontré de façon prépondérante.

La décision de la CNESST tiendra compte des particularités inhérentes à chaque demande.”

 

WCB PEI:

http://www.wcb.pe.ca/Information/NewsItem/495

“Most cases of COVID-19 are not work-related. If a worker’s COVID-19 is not work-related, there is no need to report it to the WCB.

If a worker contracts COVID-19 that may be a result of work, they should report it to the WCB to determine if they are eligible for compensation benefits. To have a claim accepted for COVID-19, all of the following conditions must be met:

There is medical confirmation that the worker has COVID-19.

The worker has been exposed to COVID-19 at work.

The exposure is confirmed to be work-related, that is, it arose out of and in the course of their employment.

The WCB adjudicates all claims on a case-by-case basis, including those related to COVID-19. The WCB will be in contact with the worker and their employer about the claim.”

 

WCB Nova Scotia:

https://www.wcb.ns.ca/About-Us/News-Room/News/COVID-19-Novel-Coronavirus.aspx

“As with any claim received, WCB Nova Scotia will adjudicate claims related to COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. As set out in the Workers’ Compensation Act, compensation is only available for a work-related injury or illness. It is not provided for workers who cannot work for preventative or precautionary reasons, such as a quarantine situation.”

 

WorkSafeNB:

https://www.worksafenb.ca/safety-topics/covid-19-safety-is-our-priority/covid-19-coronavirus/

“Workers’ compensation is available for a work-related injury or illness and is not provided for workers who withdraw from work for preventive reasons.

Claims submitted for a COVID-19 virus infection contracted through a work-related exposure are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. For a claim to be accepted, evidence must show that the infection arose out of and in the course of employment and the risk of contracting the disease through the employment is greater than the risk associated with contracting it through day to day living.”

 

WCB Yukon:

https://www.wcb.yk.ca/newsandupdates/COVID-19/Q0314.aspx

“When a worker contracts COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment, they are entitled to compensation if the following conditions are met:

  • There is a causal connection between the conditions of the work required to be performed and the resulting injury.
  • The injury is linked to a worker’s employment in terms of time, place and activity consistent with the obligations and expectations of that employment.”

Currently, WorkplaceNL and WSCC have not yet directly commented on the acceptance of COVID-19 claims.

 

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