WCB Alberta Information on COVID-19
“During this unprecedented period of uncertainty, we would like to reassure our clients that BCL remains open for business while taking precautions to ensure the safety of our staff. We continue to monitor the situation and information coming from the WCB in an effort to understand the impact that it will have on any current and/or future claims.
Your BCL Team”
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the impact continues to be far-reaching including current and potential WCB claims, raising many questions and concerns for workers and employers. Through our blog we will try to stay current and hopefully provide some understanding and clarity.
On March 17th the Alberta Government declared a provincial state of emergency which has caused business disruptions and shutdowns for many employers.
At this time, the WCB continues to operate as normal as possible managing current claims, processing new claims, handling employer accounts and continuing to share important information with workers and employers. At the same time, they are limiting in-person traffic through their offices and restricting visitors to only those with prearranged cheque pickup.
Active claims will continue to be adjudicated as usual with injured workers receiving eligible wage loss benefits and expense reimbursement. Claimants are encouraged to set up direct deposit to protect against any payment disruptions and to use the MyWCB app to streamline communication with WCB case management.
All independent medical examinations, permanent clinical impairment appointments, and clinical assessments have now been canceled and there will be restrictions on injured workers attending medical treatment including doctors’ appointments, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, diagnostic imaging and elective surgery, recovery times and treatment plans. This interruption of care may delay or prolong recovery periods.
If you are an employer facing a complete or partial shut down of operations and cannot continue to pay a worker on temporary modified duties due to a work-related injury, the WCB will provide wage loss benefits.
As always, the WCB should be notified of any new incident or accident as soon as possible. Workers can quickly and easily report an injury on-line and employers can login to their myWCB account or sign up for a myWCB account to submit their reports.
Again, restrictions on medical treatment and return to work plans may cause delays in recovery times.
The current pandemic situation may result in increased claim costs in the short term as noted above however, costs incurred now will not start impacting employer premiums until 2022. In the interim, the WCB will have the opportunity to investigate options to address the costs incurred as a direct result of COVID-19. There are already policies in place designed to deal with a declared local or provincial state of emergency, specifically Policy 04-05, Part II, Application 4, Question 11 and Policy 07-02, Part II, Application 2, Question 14.
Employers with active or new WCB claims are encouraged to document how COVID-19 has been problematic in terms of being able to bring injured workers back to work and/or provide modified duties. If you are unclear on how to manage your WCB claims at this time, you can always contact BCL directly as outlined below.
Most cases of COVID-19 are not work-related and do not need to be reported to the WCB. However, there are a few exceptions where a worker may contract COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment. A claim may be acceptable if it meets the following conditions:
- The nature of employment involves sufficient exposure to the source of infection,
- The nature of employment is shown to be the cause of the condition,
- The nature of employment creates a greater risk of exposure for the worker.
If you are unsure whether to report a claim, you should contact the WCB directly. In the event that you or one of your employees feel they have had work-related exposure to COVID-19, claim reporting is the same as any regular claim.
Although the focus of this post refers primarily to Alberta, much of the information is relevant to other provinces and jurisdictions as well. Current provincial WCB COVID-19 information can be found as follows:
As always, we are available to answer your questions or address your concerns to the best of our ability. You can contact us directly, during business hours, through our chat feature, by phone at 1-844-377-9545, or you can reach us by email at [email protected], BCL.E[email protected], and you can always connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.