WCB extending COVID-19 cost relief for employers with accepted COVID-19 claims
The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce (SCC) applauds the WCB for continuing cost relief for employers with accepted COVID-19 claims. The SCC believes it is unfair to unduly penalize employers for COVID-related claims, especially as most workplaces have made significant physical modifications, implemented mandates, and/or modified practices to protect employees from the virus to the best of their ability. Those following all public health orders, or going beyond them, should be protected. WCB claims not only cost employers’ money, but they also often impact the ability of a business to receive contracts, thus sparking a multitude of indirect consequences.
“The SCC discussed the concerns of the business community with the WCB,” explained SCC CEO Steve McLellan. “We truly appreciate that the WCB heard these concerns and then incorporated new information regarding the Omicron variant to re-evaluate its position. The WCB Board and staff have shown thoughtful leadership and strong decision-making considering a changing environment, and we appreciate their responsiveness.”
“In addition, the SCC and its members are very appreciative of everything the WCB has done within its scope to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on employers. Providing more than $4.3 million in cost relief related claims from the COVID-19 pandemic is truly significant and we thank the WCB for its stewardship of employer premiums to make this possible,” continued McLellan.
While the WCB has indicated it will continue to monitor the rapidly shifting pandemic landscape, the organization intends to revisit the decision to provide cost-relief in May 2022 and will communicate any changes to WCB customers and stakeholders in advance of June 30, 2022.
As per the extended policy, COVID claims will continue to only be accepted if there is substantiated workplace exposure and accepted claims will not go against the premium rating for individual employers. Funds from the WCB Injury Fund will be used to ensure injured workers are supported. The SCC also appreciates that the WCB is temporarily offering cost relief for employers with vaccine mandates for accepted adverse reaction COVID-19 vaccination workplace injuries. During this temporary period, from December 1, 2020, to December 31, 2022, these claims will not require a link to a pre-existing condition, as would normally be required.
Beyond advocating for the continuation of cost relief for employers with accepted COVID-19 claims, the SCC recently provided input to The Workers’ Compensation Act Committee of Review. The SCC’s recommendations focused on enhancing the system while fairly treating benefit recipients, minimizing employer costs, maintaining premium stability, and improving clarity. Click here to read the complete submission.
The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is the Voice of Saskatchewan Business and represents the interests of over 10,000 individual businesses, industry associations, and local chambers across the province through its chamber network. Information on the Low Carbon Economy and more can be found at SaskChamber.com or @SaskChamber on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
CEO, Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce 306-533-7686
How cost relief works in this situation:
The WCB will remove the costs associated with COVID-19 claims registered with WCB between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2022. As there will be no claim costs to employers, the claim is essentially removed from the employer’s WCB account and will not impact employers’ experience rating (discounts/surcharges), but still remains in the WCB system so workers receive the support they need.
The fact that these claims remain in the system means they can have an impact on future premium rates, as the rate model predicts future claim costs based on past claim costs.
These COVID-19 claim costs are paid from the WCB reserves. According to the WCB’s funding policy, the WCB must always be fully funded. The WCB maintains an Injury Fund to address unanticipated negative events such as disasters and investment downturns. However, depending on the final tally of COVID-19 injury claims paid from the reserves, WCB may be required to increase future premium rates to maintain its fully funded status.
The WCB supports workers with work-related COVID infections. If a worker is injured in the workplace, including contracting a communicable disease arising out of and in the course of employment, they will receive benefits to help them through their rehabilitation and return-to- work. The WCB adjudicates all claims, including COVID-19 claims, on a case-by-case basis and will accept medical evidence that the worker has a COVID-19 infection. PCR tests are the preferred method to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis however, it is not the only method the WCB will accept as medical evidence. The WCB works with workers, employers and health- care providers to confirm the diagnosis and determine if the infection was work-related. If workers or employers have questions, the WCB is here to work with them to determine next steps.