COVID-19 changes to Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance - Bill 191

On May 19, 2020, Bill 191, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Presumption Respecting COVID-19), 2020, passed its first reading in the Ontario legislature. This Bill, if passed, would make it easier for essential workers who contract COVID-19 to receive WSIB compensation.

Bill 191 - Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act ("WSIA"):

Employees who are off work due to a workplace-related illness, known as an "occupational disease", can apply to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for benefits. These benefits can include health care services, wage replacement and return to work services.

Currently, employees are entitled to receive WSIB benefits for COVID-19 if the employee can prove that their work duties or requirements were a significant factor in them contracting the disease. WSIB is assessing each COVID-19 claim individually, based on its own unique circumstances.

Bill 191, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act, ("WSIA"), if passed, will create a presumption that COVID-19 is an "occupational disease" for employees working for essential businesses. This means that if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it will be presumed that it was contracted due to exposure to COVID-19 at the workplace. The onus would be on the employer to prove that the employee's contraction was not work-related.

WSIA would apply to employees working for essential businesses, as defined by the Ontario government, and who tested or test positive for COVID-19 on or after January 25, 2020.

Additionally, WSIA would enable employees who have been denied WSIB benefits for COVID-19 to re-apply for WSIB benefits after WSIA is passed.

Key Takeaways:

In effect, WSIA will make it much easier for employees to apply for WSIB benefits due to COVID-19. This would likely result in claims being adjudicated more quickly, as well as an increase in employees' claims being allowed. By simplifying the procedure for applying for WSIB benefit, WSIA will provide security to frontline workers during these troubling times.

Lee Workplace Law would be happy to answer any questions you may have about WSIA or WSIB benefits.

**Written by Hannah Goranson