COVID-19, the new ‘occupational disease’?

Workers compensation boards across Canada have received thousands of claims from employees who say they contracted COVID-19 on the job, underscoring how the pandemic has become a new workplace hazard for many Canadians.

Statistics from some of the provinces hardest hit by the virus also reveal which job categories have been most affected. Nurses, orderlies, and other health-care workers – especially those at long-term care homes- have filed the largest number of claims.

The usual volume of claims at Ontario’s Workers Safety and Insurance Board has decreased significantly because of the economic shutdown. Meanwhile, COVID-19 requests have accounted for as much as 30 percent of the volume. The majority of applications for aid in the four biggest provinces have been approved by their respective compensation boards, but there is disagreement in how liberally aid should be applied.

Receiving workers compensation is preferable to going on Employment Insurance because it generally pays out more for lost time, covers the cost of rehabilitation if needed, and documents the illness in case it has long term effects. For now, however, boards are tied to their governing laws, which generally don’t contemplate a viral threat of the sort that the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced.

To read more about the numbers by sector and region, click here.

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