Ontario potentially has another new COVID-19 related law on the horizon, this time related to worker’s compensation. On May 19, Bill 191, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Presumption Respecting COVID-19), 2020 passed first reading in the Ontario Legislature.
COVID-19 a Presumptive Occupational Disease for Essential Workers
If the Bill is passed, it will amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 to add a presumption that COVID-19 is an occupational disease for workers working for essential businesses as deemed by an Order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
If the Bill is passed, the new presumption would mean that COVID-19 cases would more easily be deemed to have arisen from the infected person’s work, therefore, entitling them to WSIB coverage. It would also vacate COVID-19 claims from essential workers that had been denied prior to the Bill coming into force. Vacating a denied claim would mean that the worker could refile their claim and have it determined taking advantage of the new presumption.
Current WSIB Treatment of COVID-19 Claims
As it stands currently, the WSIB has been individually adjudicating WSIB claims rising from COVID-19. You can learn more about how the WSIB makes these adjudication decisions by reading the WSIB’s Adjudicative approach to COVID-19 claims document.
The WSIB has information on their website breaking down which industry/sector COVID-19 WSIB claims are coming from. Currently, nursing and residential care facilities top the list for number of claims, with 619 having been allowed, 31 not allowed and 1,179 pending. In all sectors, the WSIB has allowed 983 claims, not allowed 275 and has 2,439 claims pending.
Private Member’s Bills Don’t Usually Pass
Notably, Bill 191 is a private member’s bill and most private member’s bills do not pass into law, so it does remain to be seen whether the Bill will pass. This bill was brought by Niagara Falls NPD MPP Wayne Gates. We will keep you updated.
Do you have questions about the impact of COVID-19 on your workplace? Get in touch for a consultation.