In December 2020, the Government of Alberta passed Bill 47: Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, outlining changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act. As of April 1, 2021, additional legislative changes have been put in place as well.
Legislation in place as of January 1, 2021
- Review workers’ compensation benefits if a worker is terminated from modified work due to egregious conduct.
- Reinstate cost-of-living adjustment calculation set by WCB’s Board of Directors.
- Reinstate a cap for maximum compensable earnings.
- Modify presumptive coverage for traumatic psychological injuries to apply only to first responders, correctional officers, and emergency dispatchers.
Legislation in place as of April 1, 2021
- Establish workers’ and employers’ duty to cooperate.
- Establish the role of WCB’s new fairness review officer.
- For new claims, employers are no longer required to contribute to group health benefit plans for injured workers who are off work due to a workplace injury.
- Change the timeline for reconsideration of appeal decisions to one year.
What does this mean for employers?
The outlined legislative changes have been put in place to protect employers and help keep costs more consistent and predictable. The associated impacts for employers include:
1. Level of benefits and insurance
- Effective January 2021, there is now a “cap” in the amount of $98,700 per employee on the insurable earnings a company can be required to pay in premiums, and the consequent limit on the compensation benefit rate to a worker.
2. RTW Matters
- Section 88.1 of the WCA, concerning the obligation to return injured workers to work, came into force on September 1, 2018, and was subsequently repealed as of April 1, 2021 (it still applies to claims with dates of accident from September 1, 2018, to March 31, 2021, inclusive). The duty to cooperate will replace the obligation for employers to reinstate their workers after a workplace injury.
- Effective April 1, 2021, sections 89.1, 89.2, and 89.3 of the WCAintroduce a new duty to cooperate for employers and workers in efforts to achieve an early and safe return to work. There are now clearer expectations and responsibilities which will assist in less arbitrary decisions.
- In the past, the WCB would pay a worker full benefits if an employer withdrew a RTW plan. If the reason for withdrawal or termination is due to egregious conduct, full benefits will not be paid. New policy outlines the definition of “egregious conduct” based on Canadian case law and factors that WCB will consider when determining if conduct is egregious. It also clarifies that temporary disciplinary suspensions are not considered a withdrawal of modified work, provided the suspension is for a reasonable period consistent with the employer’s policies and practices.
3. Continued benefits coverage
- An employer is no longer required to contribute to a group health benefits plan for workers off work for any new claims with a date of accident on or after April 1, 2021. This provides key savings for an employer. It still applies to claims with dates of accident from September 1, 2018, to April 1, 2021, inclusive.
4. Appeal timelines
- The window for appeals to the Appeals Commission is aligned with the existing one-year window for review by the Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body (DRDRB).
If you’re looking for assistance managing claims or to ensure compliance across your organization, ReedGroup has solutions for you. Check out our offerings here.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.