COVID-19 & WSIB BENEFITS
We have received a number of questions regarding COVID-19 and how it relates to WSIB/WCB loss of earnings benefits. We are aware that many other employers and workers have similar questions and therefore we are posting some of the responses.
Will WSIB provide benefits for employees who are in quarantine?
Workers who may have been exposed in the workplace, but who are symptom-free and are not diagnosed with COVID-19, will not be eligible to receive loss of earnings benefits even though they may be self-isolating on a precautionary basis. Where exposure occurred in the workplace, but the employee is not medically disabled due to illness/symptoms, the employer should file the Employer Program for Exposure Incident Reporting (PEIR) form. If at a later date the worker begins to show symptoms or becomes ill due to the exposure, a Form 7 will be required at that time.
Other provinces have a similar approach. WorkSafeBC, for instance provides that employers should complete the Exposure Registry Program Form (similar to Ontario’s PEIR) once they are aware of work-related exposure. WSBC also will not provide loss of earnings benefits for workers who are in quarantine but have no symptoms or diagnosis.
Worker has recovered from injury but employer is closed due to COVID-19. What are the options for benefits?
Where a worker is no longer disabled due to the accident/injury, they will no longer qualify for loss of earnings benefits. As such, where the worker has recovered from injury/illness but the employer is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, LOE benefits will cease at the time of recovery. At this point, the worker would be treated as any other worker affected by the COVID-19 closure – i.e. they can apply for EI or receive any other COVID-19 benefits for which they may be eligible.
Can workers on WSIB claims be temporarily ‘laid-off’ by the employer due to COVID-19:
Receiving WSIB benefits does not provide for any special protection against a worker being temporarily laid off due to COVID-19. Note that this applies to temporary lay-offs and not termination of the worker’s employment (i.e. permanent layoff). Where the laid off worker remains unable to perform the demands of the pre-accident occupation due to the injury/illness, the worker may be eligible to have loss of earnings benefits reinstated. Our advice is that the employer notify WSIB where a worker who was on modified work is laid off due to COVID-19.
A worker on modified work halted due to COVID-19. How will this affect LOE and employer claim costs?
Workers who remain disabled from their pre-accident occupation are entitled to receive the same benefits that they were receiving at the time employer’s facility was temporarily shutdown. As such, if a worker was receiving LOE benefits from the WSIB prior to the employer’s shut down and they remain disabled from their occupation, they will be eligible to receive LOE benefits until they have recovered from the injury or illness and able to perform the essential duties of their pre-accident job or until the employer reopens and has work that is safe and suitable for the worker. In other words, LOE benefits will not cease because the worker is fit for modified work.
Will WSIB provide cost relief for employers because of COVID-19:
In our previous post Cost Relief for COVID-19 Claims we informed that WSIB will provide employers full cost relief for COVID-19 claims. However, for non-COVID claims that are prolonged due to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. lack of modified work or temporary closures), there is no cost relief for employers. In other words, as of the date of this post, the cost relief applied to COVID-19 claims would not apply to non-COVID claims, which may accumulate increased cost due to employers’ in ability to offer modified work during the pandemic.