Changes to Health Benefits for Injured Workers

Posted in: WCB Law | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on May 15, 2018


Section 88.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act, concerning the obligation to return injured workers to work, came into force on September 1, 2018, and was subsequently repealed as of April 1, 2021. Although s.88.1 has been repealed, it still applies to claims with dates of accident from September 1, 2018, to March 31, 2021, inclusive. Employer and worker rights, obligations, and penalties for non-compliance provided for in the section continue for these claims as though the section were still in force.

Further to our recent blog article on the proposed WCB Alberta Legislative changes, the associated WCB policy updates have been made and will come into effect on September 1, 2018. As much as this is intended to improve the workers’ compensation system, some of these changes will have a significant financial and operational impact on employers.   

It is, therefore, important for Alberta employers to understand what has changed, how it will affect their business and what they can do to prepare for September 1st. One of the areas that are addressed is employer-provided health benefit plans. Here’s what’s new:

Health Benefits:

Legislation will now require employers to continue to pay health benefits for workers who are absent from work due to a work-related injury, for up to one year.  

Health care benefits include services such as: dental, vision care, medications, hospital services, health services (e.g., nursing care, hearing aids, dressings, foot orthotics, etc.) and paramedic services (e.g., chiropractor, massage therapy, physiotherapy, etc.).

If a worker’s health benefit plan includes a spouse, adult interdependent partner and/or dependants, their employer is responsible to continue paying the extended coverage.

If a worker pays into the health benefit plan themselves, they must continue to do so but employers are now responsible to have a process in place to allow a worker to continue to pay or make contributions. If a worker chooses not to continue making contributions then they will not be covered for any non-claim related health care costs. However, before an employer terminates health benefit premiums payments, it is recommended that they obtain documentation from their employee confirming their decision.

If an employer chooses not to continue making contributions, then the employer becomes responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses an injured worker incurs that would have been covered under the health benefit plan. The employer is also subjected to an administrative penalty equivalent to the health benefit premiums for one year.

And perhaps the most surprising impact of this new legislation is that, under certain circumstances, an employer can still be held responsible for health benefit premium payments for an injured worker that has been terminated for reasons unrelated to their WCB claim.  

While it certainly stands to reason that a worker’s entitlement to health care benefits should not be compromised because of a work-related injury, the burden lies with employers to ensure they budget for premium payments, plan for continued employee contributions and are aware of the repercussions of terminating an employee within a year of a work-related accident.

Additional information on employer health benefit payment obligations can be found here or you can contact us directly, during business hours, using our chat feature, by phone at 1-844-377-9545 or you can reach by email at [email protected], [email protected], and you can always connect with us on Facebook ,Twitter , or LinkedIn.

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