Workers' Compensation A worker injured by work, or sick with a disease caused by work, might qualify for workers' compensation benefits. Alberta's Workers' Compensation Act explains which workers qualify, and the benefits for which a worker qualifies. In Alberta, workers' compensation is administered by the province's Workers Compensation Board (WCB). WCB decides, according to the Act, whether or not a worker receives compensation, and decides what the worker gets compensation for.
What compensation can a worker with a work injury or illness receive from WCB? Health care benefits - WCB might pay the bills for prescriptions, counseling, chiropractic appointments, dental costs, and other health care costs, like the cost of braces, crutches, and hearing aids. WCB advises injured and ill workers to check whether or not a health care cost is covered (click here to check) by WCB before making a purchase or making an appointment with health care services.
Wage replacement benefits - When an injury or illness keeps a worker from going to work, WCB might pay the worker 90% of her or his wages in wage replacement benefits. Wage replacement benefits are paid also to a worker who goes to work, but doesn't earn as much as she or he used to earn because the work is different, or because the hours are fewer. Wage replacement benefits continue until the worker's injury no longer keeps the worker from earning less than she or he did before the injury.
The amount of wage loss benefits received by a worker depends on many calculations. A worker should receive her or his first wage replacement benefit cheque from WCB no later than 14 days after reporting the injury to WCB. Wage replacement benefits begin the next working day after the day of the injury, and are sent to the worker every two weeks. Wages for the day of the injury are paid to the worker by the employer. For this day, the employer pays the worker an entire day of wages, even if the worker had to leave before the end of her or his shift.
For the loss of ability of a body part or an area of the body, a worker might receive, as compensation, a sum of money called a "non economic loss payment". In addition to the non economic loss payment, the worker might receive wage replacement benefits and compensation for the cost of services required for a worker who is severely disabled.
Fatality benefits - When a worker dies from an occupational disease or an injury caused by work, the worker's dependents receive compensation from WCB.
Are all workers covered by workers' compensation? Workers who aren't always covered by workers' compensation are those workers employed in industries that don't have to register with WCB (click here for a list of exempted industries in PDF). In industries that have to register with the Workers Compensation Board, full time, part time, casual and seasonal workers are covered. A worker can contact WCB to learn whether or not her or his employer is registered with WCB.
When a worker is injured, what should she or he do? An injured worker should get first aid and immediately report the injury to the supervisor. Next, the injured worker sees a doctor, letting the doctor know that the injury is work injury. At workplaces without first aid, or if an injury requires it, the injured worker immediately sees a doctor of her or his choice. The employer organizes and pays for the travel cost to the doctor's office or hospital emergency.
When the injured worker meets with the doctor, the worker should tell the doctor how the injury is work related. By giving a detailed account of the incident, the worker can give the doctor all the facts needed to complete the medical report for WCB. Information on equipment and hazardous materials might be important for the medical report as well.
To fully describe the injury, the worker can tell the doctor not only about the main injury, but about minor ones, too. For instance, a twisting of the back or bruises to other parts of the body when there's a broken arm after a fall. A work injury sometimes can lead to a second injury.
After an accident, an injury may not be obvious at first. Some injuries develop over time. Some occupational illnesses, like bronchitis or repetitive strain injury (RSI), also develop over time. A worker's notes on her of his minor work injuries, illnesses and accidents can be used to trace later how work may have caused or played a significant part in a more serious injury or illness.
After a work accident, whether or not a worker is injured, or misses time from work or not, the worker should report the accident to the employer. Within 72 hours of the accident, the employer may have to tell WCB about it.
Unions are interested in workers' stories of work accidents, work injuries and work illnesses. Collecting information from many workers, a union can judge whether to recommend to the employer worker training, the use of safety equipment, or equipment repair, for instance, towards improving health and safety at the workplace.
How can a worker get compensation? Compensation may be paid by WCB to a worker who:
- takes time off work beyond the day of the injury
- does different or less work because of the accident or injury
First, a worker must complete the Worker's Report of Injury Form C-060 (PDF). A list of names of witnesses to the accident can be attached to the report. The worker keeps a copy of the filled in report for her or his own records.
Questions on completing the Worker's Report of Injury or Occupational Disease can be answered by WCB. The number is 310-0000, free of charge, from anywhere in Alberta. Instructions on completing the Worker's Report of Injury and Occupational Disease are available online on pages 15 and 16 in the WCB Worker Handbook: Worker's Report of Injury Form and Guide to WCB Benefits and Services (PDF).
The WCB Policy and Information Manual explains workers' compensation in greater detail. A worker can have another person, like a friend, co worker, or family member fill in the Worker's Report of Injury or Occupational Disease with the worker. A unionized worker also can go to her or his union for information and assistance with completing the report.
After sending in the report, a worker can contact WCB to learn whether or not she or he will get compensation.
What should the worker do while off from work because of a work injury or illness? It is important for the worker:
- To speak with WCB before changing doctors, since changing doctors may not be permitted
- To keep in contact with the doctor or other health care provider, attend all medical appointments and follow all medical instruction (such as exercise programs, nutrition plans, the use of medical aids, etc.)
- To talk with the doctor or other health care provider about when it is safe to return to work
- To take detailed notes on conversations with doctors and other health service providers
- To keep in contact with WCB, take detailed notes on conversations with WCB workers, especially about the worker's return to work plan, and keep copies of letters and information that the injured or ill worker sends to WCB
- To let the employer know when the worker is fit to return to work, and discuss with the employer work that suits the worker's level of recovery
- To take notes on conversations with the employer, keep records of time taken off from work
- To tell WCB about any plans to leave the province, even for a short stay, since WCB benefits might stop while an injured or ill worker is away
What can a worker do if she or he disagrees with WCB's decision? A worker can appeal WCB's decision. This means a worker can ask WCB to change its decision, or parts of its decision. The decision concerns whether or not a worker receives benefits, the type of benefits the worker receives, and the amount and length of time the worker receives benefits.
There are many steps to questioning a decision. The Appeals Commission can work with a worker on appealing a WCB decision. The services provided by Appeals advisors are free of charge. A worker who is unionized can contact her or his union for assistance and advice on appealing a WCB decision.
A worker appealing a WCB decision can get a copy of her or his WCB file by calling the Access to Information unit at WCB.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD OF ALBERTA P.O. Box 2415
Edmonton AB T5J 2S5