Worker Compensation Updates – What you need to know

Since January 2018 there have been many changes occurring to WCB in Alberta. Here is how these changes affect businesses.

Presumption for traumatic psychological injury claims for all workers

  • Workers who are exposed to psychological injury may be compensated by the WCB
    • example: those who experience workplace violence/harassment, witness serious incidents/injuries, or have been subject/witness to criminal acts at the workplace

Maximum wage cap eliminated

  • Prior to Sept 1, 2018 – Maximum Compensable Earnings (MCE) cap was $98,700/year
  • Claims with a date of accident on or after Sept 1, 2018 have no MCE cap, and will be compensated at 90% of the employee’s net earnings with no limit
    • This means, the compensation payment can exceed $98,700 per year payments from the WCB for workers with accepted claims that are not working / on a return-to-work/modified duties program
  • More questions will be asked on the Employer Annual Return to identify how this program is working
    • The WCB may make changes to the Maximum Assessment of Earnings that the employer reports annually to the WCB. This change would be an increase on the earnings reported from $98,700. This could result in higher employer premiums, higher industry rates, or a combination of the two.

Appeal deadline extended

  • Currently, workers and employers have 1 year to appeal a decision made by the WCB.
  • This is being increased to 2 years as of September 1, 2018 for those decisions made by the Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body (DRDRB)
  • The 1 year appeal deadline will continue to apply to all decisions made below the DRDRB (such as decisions made by the case manager)

Enhanced benefits for severely injured young workers

  • Currently, wage replacement for young workers (under 25, or older if enrolled in vocational or academic programs) are capped at the DOA (Date of Accident) wages. Now, workers could receive the higher of:
    • 90% of net earnings at DOA; or
    • 90% of net earnings based on the Alberta average weekly earnings for the previous year

Requirement to continue coverage for  injured workers under the benefits plan

  • Employers will be expected to continue employment benefits (dental, prescriptions, etc.) for the first 12 months of a claim, as long as the worker continues to pay their normal employee portion
  • If the employer causes these benefits to end without having the WCB make a formal decision, and the worker incurs expenses because of this, the WCB will have the option to reimburse the worker for these expenses and invoice the employer directly for this reimbursement. The WCB may also decide to levy addition penalties, up to an amount equal to one ear of the worker’s contributions to the plan.
  • If the worker had coverage for dependants on this plan, this coverage shall continue
  • If the worker voluntarily ends their employment relationship during the coverage period, they will no longer be entitled to continued employer paid health benefits past the last day of employment; however, if they are fired, they are still entitled to the benefits for the 12 month period after firing
  • To protect businesses and make employees aware, a sign-off agreement about the benefits should be added into the hire-on package, or distributed and retained from each pre-existing employee

Employers’ Obligation to Reinstate Injured Workers

  • If a worker is injured after 12 consecutive months of employment, the employer must:
    • Provide modified employment
    • Offer the same role, once fit for full duties (or an appropriate alternate role with equal pay)
  • Failure to meet these obligations could result in penalties of up to 1 year of the employee’s salary, and some or all of the penalty may be paid by the WCB to the worker
    • Both workers and employers have a duty to cooperate. It is imperative to document all interactions with employees when going through return to work steps, and report any difficulties from the worker to the WCB.
  • Worker / employer disputes may be reported, by the WCB, to the Human Rights Commission
  • If the WCB decides to assign a claims auditor to review if the employers’ obligations were met on a specific claim, the auditor, at minimum will want copies of:
    • ROE & Letter of Termination
    • Copies of company’s policies supporting the termination
    • Confirmation that the employee has recently read and acknowledged their understanding of these rules/policies/procedures and understands consequences for not meeting them
    • Confirmation of other workers recently terminated due to this policy and their termination dates

Cost Impacts

  • Providing suitable work remains the best way to control claims costs and positively affect WCB premiums.
  • Penalties related to this legislation will go into general revenues.
  • Levying / fine penalties will not impact premiums.
    • This is a separate program intended to gain compliance after education has not been successful. It may impact participation in other programs such as the PIR program or funding distributions
  • If the employer cannot accommodate post injury, and has an Undue Hardship claim, they must complete the required documentation and submit to the WCB as to why they cannot bring the post injury worker back to their business in any role.

Extra Information

Now, more than ever, it is imperative to not only have a functioning Health and Safety Management System (HSMS) in place, but also a Human Resource Management System (HRMS) in place.

All-Safe HSE Inc. can help develop and implement both to ensure both the worker and employer are protected, and maintain compliance with changing legislation and standards.

Documentation control is also extremely important in managing the HSMS and HRMS. All-Safe HSE Inc. can help implement structured system to maintain documentation with ease.

For gap analysis on current programs and help with updating and implementing, please reach out for assistance.

Extra Resources