Workers in 'Essential Workplaces' Deserve Presumptive WCB Coverage, says AFL

Alberta Federation of Labour calls on the Workers Compensation Board to act now to ensure clarity for workers and employers during the COVID-19 pandemic

EDMONTON - Yesterday, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the largest worker advocate organization in Alberta, sent a letter to the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) outlining concerns and suggestions about how the workers compensation system should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including ensuring presumptive coverage for workers at essential workplaces during COVID-19.

“It is our understanding that the Workers Compensation Board is attempting to resolve how workers who contract COVID-19 during their course of work can be supported by the WCB, to get healthy and return to work, or whose families can be supported in the event of a worker death,” said AFL president, Gil McGowan. “It is concerning that seemingly contradictory information has been released by WCB at this point. This serves to confuse workers and employers, creating uncertainty around which workers have coverage if they contract COVID-19 at their workplace and which employers need to report COVID-19 cases to WCB.”

To resolve this, the AFL believes the WCB needs to adapt to support workers and employers during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing presumptive coverage to all workers that are deemed essential by the provincial government. There is a need to recognize that these workers are at greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19 than the general population.

“It is our belief that any confusion, or lack of clarity, is a disservice to hardworking Albertans. It is causing unnecessary stress, time, and costs for all parties,” said McGowan. “We are becoming increasingly concerned that this ongoing confusion will continue into the claims process.”

Presumptive status means that, barring evidence to the contrary, the injury or illness is assumed to have arisen from, and occurred in, the course of employment. Presumptive coverage would provide some certainty for workers and employers during this challenging time. It would help to correct and clarify some of the contradictory information that is currently being told to workers and employers.

“The reality is that most Albertans, or our organizations, have never faced a global pandemic before. Most of our policies and operating procedures never fully considered the consequences of a global pandemic entering Alberta’s workplaces,” said McGowan. “Alberta is in unprecedented times that are rapidly changing. Our social programs and services must adapt alongside, including our Workers Compensation system. We hope the WCB will work with us to ensure we can do just that.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
rfranson@afl.org