Effective January 1, 2022, the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) will discontinue the COVID-19 cost relief program. Any eligible workplace injuries related to COVID-19 that occur on or prior to December 31, 2021, will still be eligible for cost relief.
The WCB has temporarily covered all COVID-19 workplace injury claim costs since March 2020. The cost relief program was funded through the WCB's occupational disease reserve, a fund created to help respond to any disaster or other circumstances that might unfairly burden employers. The cost relief measures were intended to be temporary in order to support Saskatchewan employers through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WCB states that the decision to end the temporary cost relief program stems from the widespread availability and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. When the WCB implemented the COVID-19 cost relief program, vaccines were not yet approved or available, and COVID safety measures were not as widely implemented as today. Now, between vaccination and negative testing policies in place in many workplaces, the risk of catching COVID-19 in the workplace is far reduced.
COVID-19 Claims Moving Forward
Employers and workers will still be able to submit eligible COVID-19 workplace injury claims moving forward in 2022; however, claim costs will no longer be covered by the WCB.
In addition, the WCB's eligibility conditions for COVID-19 injuries remain the same. A worker who contracts COVID-19 may be entitled to WCB benefits if there is a confirmed link between the exposure and their employment, and the following conditions are met:
- There is a 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 population.
The WCB has published a fact sheet that provides additional information on the discontinuance of cost relief for COVID-19 injury claims. If you have questions or concerns regarding how this decision may impact your organization, we invite you to contact a member of our occupational health and safety and labour and employment team.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.