Alberta’s NDP Government introduced Bill 30 this week, an Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.  The legislation proposes amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as Workers’ Compensation Act, and is intended to enhance employee rights, as well as expand compensation and benefits for injured workers.

The government plans to push the legislation through in its entirety within the next couple weeks, limiting debate. If passed, the Minister of Labour anticipates much of the changes to WCB would take effect January 1, 2018, with the majority of OHS changes taking effect June 1, 2018. Some of the more complex aspects would be rolled out later in 2018.

Changes to the WCB system will cost an additional $94.5 million annually, funded using the agency’s Accident Fund, established using surplus employer premiums.  The fund currently contains approximately $10.5 billion and RCC has long advocated for these funds to be rebated to employers.

OVERVIEW:

Key proposed changes to the WCB system:

• Remove the cap for maximum insurable earnings, currently set at $98,700 per year, so that injured workers earning above this rate would be able to receive 90% of their annual earnings.
• Create a lump-sum fatality benefit of $90,772.20 for family of workers who die on the job.
• Provide WCB appeals commission two years to launch formal reviews (currently one year).
• Create a fair practices office to help workers navigate the WCB system.
• Extend coverage for psychological injuries, PTSD, for all occupations.

Key proposed changes to the OHS Act:

• Enshrining the right for employees to refuse dangerous work, bringing Alberta into line with other Canadian provinces. Employees would still be paid while their refusal to work is investigated.
• Employers with 20 or more workers will be required to create a joint work site health and safety committee if work lasts 90 days or more. Smaller employers with five to 19 workers will need to have a health and safety representative. Alberta is currently the only province without such committees.
• A serious injury would be reported when a worker is admitted to hospital. Currently, the threshold for reporting a serious injury is a two-day hospitalization.
• Employers will be required to report “near miss” incidents to OHS, referring to a situation that might have caused serious injury but didn’t.
• Definitions for workplace violence and harassment will be expanded to include threats and coercion.
• OHS laws will be reviewed every five years.

NEXT STEPS:

• RCC will actively follow the progress of the legislation over the next couple of weeks.
• RCC will write Labour Minister Christina Gray to outline the retail industry’s concerns with the Government’s use of rebatable employer premiums to fund this program. We will also be highlighting our concerns with the additional red tape and regulation created, and overall impact additional costs have on our sector’s competitiveness.
• RCC will reach out to other business stakeholders to ensure we share our concerns.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact: John Graham, Director, Government Relations (Prairie Region) at 204.926.8624 or [email protected]