The situation around COVID-19 is constantly evolving, and USJE, along with PSAC, will advocate for workers with a work-related COVID-19 infection. Workers who contract the COVID-19 illness in their workplace as a result of their regular job duties will get the coverage and support they need.
As there are many questions surrounding leave and the application of Workers’ Compensation Claims (WCB, WSIB, WSCC, etc) claims, we want to ensure all members are aware of the protections available, as well as the processes with Workers’ Compensation claims.
Any member that believes they have contracted the COVID-19 virus from the workplace or while at work should file a Workers’ Compensation claim – in the province/territory in which they work – to ensure they are fully covered and protected.
Even in situations where the employer is covering loss of salary through sick leave or other provisions, a Workers’ Compensation claim should still be filed for two main reasons;
- Sick leave is not intended to be used in situations that are a result of a workplace exposures or other workplace injuries. It is time you have earned to use when needed for non-workplace related injuries or illnesses. Workers’ Compensation is responsible for covering for workplace injuries and exposures.
- Members who contract COVID-19 may have long term health implications from the virus. Our understanding of the virus is constantly evolving. Some illnesses may be “long haul” cases, in which those affected require a much longer period to adequately recover. As well, it is currently unclear on the long term effects of those that have contracted the virus. In this case, a Workers’ Compensation claim on file will provide protection now and, in the future, should there be subsequent issues.
By filing a Workers’ Compensation claim, you will be fully protecting yourself now and in the future.
Here’s what to expect if you contract COVID-19 and believe your infection is work-related:
As all provincial and territorial jurisdictions have slightly different guidance on the topic of COVID-19 claims, we strongly encourage you to review your jurisdiction’s guidance. There are however many commonalities.
If you believe you infection is work-related;
• First tell your employer, then report it to your provincial/territorial Workers’ Compensation body. Employers do not have the ability or authority to assess claims or determine if a claim should be filed.
• Some Boards can accept a positive PCR test or rapid antigen test (RAT) result or a doctor’s diagnosis. Some Boards, such as Saskatchewan, require a test performed by a clinic to confirm a COVID-19 illness.
• If you are symptomatic and testing or obtaining a diagnosis is unavailable to you, you can still report
your illness. Boards will work with you to confirm your COVID-19 illness and adjudicate your claim.
When COVID-19 may be work-related
In every case, Workers’ Compensation adjudicates work-relatedness and benefit entitlement based on individual workers’ circumstances. In order to confirm whether an illness is work related, Boards will assess your risk of exposure in the workplace. Specifically, Boards look to ensure the following conditions are met:
• The nature of your employment involves sufficient exposure to the source of infection,
• The nature of your employment is shown to be the cause of the condition,
• The nature of your employment puts you at a greater risk of exposure.
Some occupations are known to create greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, including those who work in Corrections, those that work directly with the public, or near others. This is recognized by Boards in the adjudication process.
When do I report a case of COVID-19 to Workers’ Compensation?
If you’re not sure whether your COVID-19 infection is work related, report it to your employer and Workers’ Compensation Boards will evaluate your claim based on specific criteria for exposure, cause, and risk.
Do not report if:
1. You were on vacation or away from work at the time of infection.
2. You are not ill but must quarantine due to a suspected or confirmed exposure, or a close contact.
3. You tested negative.
Workers’ Compensation will investigate all cases reported to determine coverage.
If I’m sent home to avoid getting sick, do I need to report it to Workers’ Compensation?
No. If there is no illness, there is no claim. There’s no need to report this.
Will Workers’ Compensation accept COVID-19 claims where there are symptoms present but no medical reporting that confirms a diagnosis of COVID-19?
Typically, Boards look for a confirmation of a positive test (PCR or RAT) or a physician’s diagnosis. Due to extraordinary circumstances, some Boards may recognize you may not be able to easily access testing and it may not be safe to visit your doctor if you are symptomatic. If you are symptomatic and believe you contracted COVID-19 at work, but you are unable to access diagnostic resources, we advise members to contact their Workers’ Compensation body directly to report your illness. They can begin the claim process based on your self-report of symptoms that are known indicators of COVID-19. In some situations, Boards may arrange and pay for a private test if it is safe and practical to do so.
What happens when I submit a COVID-19 claim?
Like any other workplace illness or injury claim, Boards must determine whether your exposure to the disease arose out of the course of your employment and was caused by an employment hazard (in this case, workplace exposure to the virus).
Should you disagree with any decision made by Workers’ Compensation on your claim, please contact USJE or your respective PSAC Regional Office.
Links to provincial and territorial WCBs: