Following public consultations, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has published a new operational policy on communicable illnesses (Policy), became effective December 1, 2023. With COVID-19 and flu rates continuing to rise, this policy will impact how we manage infection and illness reporting in 2024. Read more here.
The approach prior to this policy or the last while has been that the majority of COVID-19 infections are presumed not to be work-related, given the prevalence of COVID in the community. For a COVID-19 claim to be allowed, the evidence had to demonstrate that the person’s risk of contracting the disease through their employment was greater than the risk to which the public at large is exposed, and that work significantly contributed to the person’s illness. Certain professions, like healthcare workers, did have a better chance of making that out.
The new policy effective December 1, 2023, will apply to communicable illnesses beyond COVID. It defines communicable illnesses broadly as those resulting from infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi etc. It sets criteria for determining if a worker contracted a communicable disease, requiring evidence such as a positive test result or a diagnosis from a health professional. To qualify for benefits now, a worker must have contracted the illness “out of and in the course of employment in that the employment made a significant contribution to contracting the communicable illness”. Some factors to guide whether “significantly contributed” is met considers factors such as the mode of transmission, duration, frequency, and intensity of potential exposures, as well as workplace control measures such as the use of personal protective equipment.
Key points for employers include that workers will not be denied benefits due to lack of immunization against the claimed communicable illness, and those self-isolating on a precautionary basis without having the illness are not entitled to benefits.
In contrast to the previous approach, the new Policy appears to provide a more structured and defined framework and apply what we learned through COVID to all communicable illnesses.
This, paired with the new rate framework we discussed last time coming into full effect, is a good reason to continue to take the reduction of communicable diseases in the workplace as a priority.
PooranLaw will continue to monitor the ongoing legal developments related to WSIB and its impact on the DS sector. If you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.