Changes to Alberta's workplace safety and compensation laws could impact your business

Posted by: Alycia Lowdon on November 30, 2017

On Monday, November 27, the Alberta Government introduced Bill 30, an act to protect the health and well-being of working Albertans for first reading. Bill 30 brings significant changes to the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards, which will result in new costs and administrative burdens for employers.

Changes to employer responsibilities will begin to take effect on January 1, 2018, if Bill 30 is passed this legislative session. Further changes introduced by the legislation would take effect on July 1st and September 1st of 2018.

How changes could impact your business

Changes to workplace standards and responsibilities for employers include:

Hard costs·

  • The $98,700 cap on maximum insurable earnings through the WCB will be removed. Workers earning more than the cap will now be fully compensated for 90% of their earnings.
  • WCB claims will now include a $90,000 fatality benefit. As it stands now, if a worker dies within 30 days of the accident they are not eligible for this specific compensation, referred to as the “Non-Economic Loss Payment”
  • A stop work order may be issued on multiple work sites of an employer, not just the specific site where an OHS officer determines there is a danger to health and safety
  • When evidence is equal, WCB claim decisions are to be resolved in favor of the worker

Indirect costs

  • Employers or prime contractors will be required to establish a Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committee (JWSHSC) and Representative for a workplace or project with 20 or more workers
  • Any employer with 20 or more workers is required to establish a health and safety program in consultation with JWSHSC and implement the program
  • Worker health and safety representative required for workplace or project with 5 to 19 workers

If Bill 30 is passed this legislative session, the Chamber is concerned with the speed with which changes will begin to take effect. Business, particularly small business, will have very little time to adjust or even be effectively educated on how to take on and fulfill their new responsibilities.

We urge the Alberta Government to send Bill 30 to a committee for further review and analysis. Taking this step will help identify how employers and employees can best adjust to changes introduced with the new legislation, which are intended to prevent illness and injury in the workplace.

WCB premium surpluses collected from employers in 2016 are approximately $350 million, with similar surpluses expected for 2017. Past practice of the WCB has been to rebate surpluses back to employers because the WCB if fully employer funded. The Chamber is pleased that the Alberta Government rejected the WCB Review Panel's recommendation to not rebate accrued surpluses back to employers, but the final decision for rebating the surpluses back to employers rests with the WCB.

The Alberta Government has not provided an economic impact analysis of this legislation on employers. At first estimate, it is anticipated that the changes introduced by this legislation may result in approximately a 10% increase in the total WCB premiums collected from Alberta employers. Cost structures of employers with high income earners in highly rated industries will be particularly affected with the removal of the cap on insurable WCB earnings.

Concerns about Alberta's competitiveness in industries such as oil and gas should be a key consideration of the government. Alberta was recently ranked 33rd in the world, and second last in Canada, for investor attractiveness in oil and gas according to the Fraser Institute's 2017 Global Petroleum Survey.

More details on Bill 30 can be found in this presentation. We will continue to follow this issue and provide further details as soon as it becomes available.