Workers’ compensation boards across Canada have approved thousands of claims from employees who believe they contracted Covid-19 at work, underscoring how the pandemic has become a new workplace hazard for many Canadians.
The flood of unconventional requests has prompted calls to expand the legal definition of an occupational disease. Nurses, orderlies and other healthcare workers – especially those at long-term care homes – have filed the largest number of claims, followed by municipal workers, agricultural labourers and firefighters.
By late May, claims totalled 5,786 in Quebec, 4,156 in Ontario, 1,366 in Alberta and 541 in British Colombia. The majority of applications in the country’s four biggest provinces have been approved by their respective compensation boards.
Hassan Yussuff, president of the national union federation CLC, said that certain professions are far more likely to interact with people that are carriers of the virus. “Receiving workers compensation is preferable to going on Employment Insurance because it generally pays out more for lost time, covers the cost of rehabilition if needed and documents the illness in case it has long-term effects,” he noted.
There are calls to make coronavirus related ill-health subject to a ‘presumptive’ test, meaning people in designated jobs do not have to prove they got sick at work. The board of directors of WorkSafeBC (British Colombia’s compensation agency) has promised to do just that within six months.
It would mean creating “a formal institutional memory for diseases such as Covid-19” so evidence of “work-relatedness” would not be required in every case, says a white paper issued by the organisation. (Source: RISKS – TUC’s Health and Safety News)