On November 5, 2020, the Government of Alberta introduced Bill 47, Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 (the "Bill").
The Bill proposes significant changes to both the Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, with the latter being replaced in its entirety. The Bill, if passed, would roll back many of the changes implemented by the NDP in 2018 through Bill 30, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans. The proposed amendments include the following:
- Eliminating the obligation to reinstate employees post-injury;
- Removing the requirement for employers to continue making contributions to health benefit plans for injured workers who are away from work;
- Limiting presumptive coverage for psychological injuries to first responders, correctional officers, peace officers, and emergency dispatchers; and
- Reinstating the cap on maximum insurable earnings for injured and ill workers.
Occupational Health and Safety
- Modifying employers' basic obligations with respect to ensuring workplace health and safety;
- Altering the obligations for worksite health and safety committees and representatives, including size, composition, and training requirements, and eliminating mandatory participation in incident investigation;
- Changing the circumstances in which a worker can refuse dangerous work; and
- Clarifying definitions and reporting requirements for "an incident that has the potential of causing serious injury to a person".
While the elimination of the statutory obligation to reinstate injured workers is a significant change for employers, it is important to keep in mind that the duty to accommodate ill and injured employees, to the point of undue hardship, still exists by virtue of human rights law.
If the Bill is passed, the changes to the Workers' Compensation Act would largely come into force on January 1, 2021, and changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act on September 1, 2021. We recommend that employers review their relevant policies to ensure alignment with the proposed changes in anticipation of the Bill passing.
"Our government is modernizing workplace health and safety laws, making them easier to understand, follow and focus on outcomes. This is about improving safety for Alberta workers and making workplaces safer. We are also restoring balance and fairness to the workers' compensation system to meet the needs of workers and job creators now and into the future. Workers continue to have rights and protections while job creators face less red tape. The result will be healthier and safer workplaces and will help get Albertans back to work." Jason Copping, Minister of Labour and Immigration
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