Throughout the year, in any given year, changes in government legislation can impact how we conduct business, our employee relationships, and our obligations therein. It is important to corporate success to be surrounded by experts to keep appraised of these changes and update practices to current. 

With the many changes being enacted by Alberta’s Bill 47, we consulted with policy and guideline expert, Murray Whitby, from POLICY PROTEC for his take on the “Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020” changes as it relates to amending the Worker’s Compensation Act. 

What do you think was the main intent of the amendment? 

MW: I take the government at their word on this. They say their intent was to balance the needs of workers and employers and that is what it seems like they have done. 

What is the number one item employers need to keep in mind when familiarizing themselves with these changes? 

MW: The updated law will remove employers’ obligations to make contributions to health benefits for injured workers who are absent from work. That is pretty important. Also, the time limit to appeal a WCB decision has been reduced from two years to one year is key. Workers and employers alike will have to make sure they do not dawdle if they want to appeal a decision. 

Why do you think WCB would enact changes to their legislation which seems to violate or infringe up other governing bodies like Human Rights? 

MW: I believe you are referring to the removal of employers’ obligation to reinstate injured workers but the continued requirement to accommodate disabled workers under the Human Rights Act. For employers, we always have to navigate competing and overlapping regulatory priorities, so this is nothing new. I think the best advice is: 

  1. know what each law requires of you,
  2. evaluate each situation on its own merits and circumstances, but do not let the favoritism or the “devil effect” colour your decisions, and
  3. if in doubt, contact an employment lawyer.

Some of the changes seem to contravene their own changes. Take, for instance, the “egregious conduct” section. “If an injured worker is terminated from modified work due to egregious conduct, the WCB will be able to reduce or cease wage replacement” Then goes on to state… “WCB health benefits and return to work services will still be available to injured workers terminated from modified work due to an egregious act”. Am I reading this wrong, or does this seems to state we’ll reduce, but we’ll still pay? 

MW: I suspect what the government is trying to do is not allow a worker to profit from egregious conduct, but also not punish them excessively. It helps to remember that the person, as egregious as their conduct may have been, may be supporting a family. Back to that “balance” thing. 

How important is it for employers to maintain current and up-to-date policies that not only address the WCB but other legislation? 

MW: Every employer must comply with a thicket of laws, regulations, and codes. Policies are simply the rules a company sets out for itself and its employees. Done correctly, policies summarize the regulatory requirements placed on them into clear, concise (1) commitments by the employer and (2) expectations of employees 

And quite a thicket it is: Regulatory requirements include employment standards, labour relations, workers’ compensation, personal information privacy and data protection, health and safety, environmental protection, health information protection, hazardous products, human rights, competitive practices, anti-SPAM, accessibility, and on and on. All these laws are enforced, and financial penalties are significant. Due diligence is required. 

As we consider the many legal ramifications to an employer who strictly relied upon this as their tool for a guideline, it strengths the need for consulting expert advice. Legal, accounting, human resources and policy guideline experts, like POLICY PROTEC work to ensure whatever guideline and policy tools used are well-rounded to mitigate risk and most importantly, always kept up-to-date.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment, taxation, legal vary accordingly. Please seek legal, accounting and human resources counsel from qualified professionals to make certain your legal/accounting/compliance interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.