The government of Alberta passed Bill 47 last December, the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 (the “Act”), as part of its implementation of sweeping red tape reduction (“RTR”) measures across the province.
The Act amends or replaces three provincial statutes respecting Alberta workplace health and safety:
- The current Occupational Health and Safety Act (“Current OHSA”) will be replaced in its entirety with a new Occupational Health and Safety Act (“New OHSA”);
- Amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”) came into effect as of January 1, 2021 and April 1, 2021; and
- The Radiation Protection Act will be repealed and incorporated into the New OHSA.
The Act received Royal Assent on December 9, 2020. While some of the Act’s amendments to the WCA have already come into effect, the New OHSA is expected to come into effect upon proclamation (the government has indicated September 2021). This blog will focus on the key provisions and amendments that employers should be aware of related to occupational health and safety (“OHS”) and worker’s compensation laws in Alberta resulting from the Act and RTR measures.
Radiation Protection Act
The Act repeals the current Radiation Protection Act and incorporates OHS radiation protection laws into the New OHSA.
The New OHSA will completely overhaul and replace the Current OHSA, reversing a number of changes that were introduced into the Current OHSA in 2018 by the previous provincial government. Some of the extensive changes coming under the New OHSA include:
- Changes to the implementation of joint worksite health and safety committees, and the rules applicable to those committees;
- Changes to the processes and requirements for workplace incident reporting and investigation;
- Renaming of discriminatory action complaints" to "disciplinary action complaints"; and
- Changes to the definition of and rules regarding workers’ dangerous work refusals for undue hazards, including mandated employer action/responses to such refusals.
Although the New OHSA has yet to come into effect, the Alberta government announced it will also be updating the Occupational Health and Safety Code (the “Code”) and is taking feedback on the potential changes to the Code here until May 10, 2021. The Code will be comprehensively reviewed by the government over the next three years, in three phases.
Worker's Compensation Act
Changes to the WCA came into effect January 1 and April 1, 2021. Some of the important policy changes to the WCA include:
- Obligation to reinstate workers repealed: section 88.1 of the WCA, requiring employers to reinstate and accommodate injured workers in most instances following an accident, was repealed effective April 1, 2021;
- However, the obligation to reinstate continues to apply to claims with dates of accident from September 1, 2018, to March 31, 2021, inclusive;
- Duty to cooperate for employers and workers introduced: new provisions introduce a duty to cooperate for both employers and workers in efforts to achieve an early and safe return to work, effective April 1, 2021. The worker’s duty to cooperate also includes a duty to mitigate the worker’s loss of earnings resulting from an injury;
- Egregious conduct of workers: a new provision was introduced effective January 1, 2021 reducing the WCB benefits payable to an injured worker if an employer withdraws modified work or terminates the worker during temporary modified work due to the worker’s egregious conduct;
- Maximum Compensable Earnings (MCE) reinstated: the cap on MCE for injured and ill workers was reinstated by the Act;
- Cost of living adjustments reinstated: the WCB’s responsibility to make cost of living adjustments was reinstated commencing with the 2021 calendar year (instead of basing adjustments automatically on the Alberta consumer price index);
- Fairness reviews and new position of designated Fairness Review Officer: the position of Fairness Review Officer was created within WCB (reporting to the Board of Directors of WCB), as well as requiring related changes to the Code of Rights and Conduct (setting out the rights of workers and employers in their interaction with the WCB and describing how the WCB operates in recognition of those rights); and
- Continuation of employment health benefits repealed: the provision requiring employers to continue employment benefits under s. 88.2 of the WCA was repealed effective April 1, 2021;
- However, this provision continues to apply to claims with dates of accident from September 1, 2018, to April 1, 2021, inclusive.
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Please contact any member of our Employment, Labour and Human Rights team if you have any questions about the expected new provincial OHS legislation, recent changes to the WCA, or any other OHS or WCB-related employment questions you may have.
*This update is intended for general information only on the subject matter and is not to be taken as legal advice.
 Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, SA 2020, c 32, online: https://www.qp.alberta.ca/Documents/AnnualVolumes/2020/ch32_2020.pdf [“Act”].
 Occupational Health and Safety Act, SA 2017, c O-2.1.
 Occupational Health and Safety Act, SA 2020 cO-2.2 [New OHSA].
 Workers' Compensation Act, RSA 2000, c W-15 [WCA].
 Radiation Protection Act, RSA 2000, c R-2.
 Occupational Health and Safety Code 2009 Order, Alta Reg 87/2009.
 Act, ss. 3(21)(c), 3(34)(a)-(b).
 WCA, s. 89.1(a).
 WCA, s. 56(15.1).
 WCA, s. 59(3).
 WCA, s. 59(1).
 WCA, s. 23.1.
 WCA, ss. 9.2(1)-(4).
 Act, s. 3(34)(a)-(b).