Extended support for workers and employers due to the Omicron variant
Regina, Sask., Jan. 27, 2022 – As the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to spread in the province, the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) is further extending cost relief to June 30, 2022 for employers to cover costs for accepted work-related COVID-19 claims.
“We’re continuing to do what we can to care for injured workers and employers impacted by the pandemic,” said the WCB’s CEO Phillip Germain. “We’re accepting eligible workplace COVID-19 claims and given the recent Omicron surge, the WCB is also extending temporary financial support for employers to cover COVID-19 claim costs. By taking a proactive response to the higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant, we believe this decision will help assist workers and employers affected by COVID-19 injury claims.”
The WCB has implemented relief measures for employers and workers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing cost relief for employers. For claims that occurred in 2020 and 2021, the WCB has provided more than $5.6 million in cost relief for COVID-19 injury claims. The cost relief is funded through the WCB’s occupational disease reserve as a temporary measure to aid Saskatchewan employers.
“This most recent extension of the cost relief to June 30, 2022 is a temporary measure to provide relief to employers. We are utilizing our occupational disease reserve so that these COVID-19 claims do not affect the specific employer’s experience rating,” said Germain. “We are constantly monitoring the rapidly shifting pandemic landscape and making decisions to balance the needs of employers and injured workers.”
The WCB will cover employer costs for accepted COVID-19 claims that occur between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2022. Workers will receive the support they need and the costs that employers would have been assigned will be covered through the WCB’s occupational disease reserve. This reserve is being used to address the unanticipated negative impact of the COVID-19 virus and the costs that result from any COVID-19 workplace claims. The WCB will continue to assess the impact of the pandemic to employers and workers, and will communicate next steps prior to June 30.
In Saskatchewan, the WCB is legislated under The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013 to maintain an Injury Fund sufficient to finance current and future injured worker claims, including earnings loss, physical and vocational rehabilitation, prevention initiatives and other obligations under the Act.
WCB continues to cover workplace COVID-19 injury claims
Workers and employers continue to be able to submit eligible COVID-19 workplace injury claims to the WCB. A worker may be entitled to WCB benefits if there is a confirmed link between the worker’s exposure and their employment, and they contract COVID-19.
“WCB injury claims submitted for work-related COVID-19 exposures are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis,” said Jennifer Norleen-Beitel, the WCB’s vice-president of operations. “Each injury claim will be assessed on its own merits with consideration to relevant medical information. This includes a diagnosis, the nature of the occupation and the extent of exposure. We gather information from the worker and the employer to confirm the injury and the source of exposure.”
“After almost two years, the COVID-19 pandemic is still changing how employers across Saskatchewan do business,” said the WCB’s chair Gord Dobrowolsky. “We recognize the impact and will work to continue supporting workers and employers as we all navigate through the pandemic. Together, we can help keep everyone safe at work.”
Frequently asked questions for workers and employers on COVID-19 cost relief and COVID-19 workplace injury claims are available at www.wcbsask.com.
WCB will cover costs associated with COVID-19 adverse vaccination reaction injury claims
To provide additional assistance for employers, the WCB is temporarily offering cost relief to cover all claim costs for accepted adverse reaction injury claims to COVID-19 vaccinations if an employer requires workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
If a worker is required by their employer to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and as a result, the worker is required to seek medical care or is medically required to miss work, the WCB will accept this claim and the employer would receive cost relief for all related claim costs.
“To further support employers in the pursuit of workplace safety, the WCB is providing cost relief for COVID-19 vaccination adverse reaction injury claims for employers who have, or are planning to, make COVID-19 vaccinations required in the workplace. These associated claim costs will not affect the employer’s experience rating,” said Germain.
Accepted adverse reaction COVID-19 vaccination workplace injuries that occur from Dec. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2022 will be eligible for cost relief for claim costs through the occupational disease reserve. During this temporary period, these claims will not need a link to a pre-existing condition as would normally be required.
For information on how to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 at work, visit www.worksafesask.ca.
When COVID-19 may be work-related
Based on WCB policy Injuries – Communicable Diseases (POL 02/2010), the following conditions must be met:
- There is confirmed exposure to the disease in the workplace;
- The time period that the illness is contracted is in close proximity to the confirmed workplace exposure; and
- The nature of employment creates a greater risk of exposure for the worker than to the general
Examples of required vaccinations
Read the WCB’s policy and procedures Communicable Diseases (POL 02/2010 and PRO 02/2010) and procedure Communicable Diseases – Adverse Reactions to Immunization (PRO 08/2021) for more information.
Examples of situations when vaccination might be considered required include, but are not limited to:
- The employer advises the worker that they cannot work unless they have the vaccination.
- The worker is required to be vaccinated or must provide proof of negative COVID-19 test results that are either employee funded or obtained outside of work hours, as directed through employer policy, the employer’s human resource guidelines, employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements.
- It is communicated and/or understood by the worker that refusing a vaccine could result in changes to their hours of work, location of work or nature of job duties, and that they will be unable to access available extra shifts or duties.