The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic will discuss workers’ compensation in Alberta.
Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB)
In Alberta, the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) provides compensation (including wage-replacement benefits and medical aid) to workers who suffer work-related injuries during the course of employment. WCB is funded by premiums paid by employers in compulsory industries in Alberta. WCB will pay compensation to employees for work-related injuries regardless of whom or what caused the injury. The amount of the compensation depends upon the seriousness of the injury and whether the injured person has to take time off from work.
Workers who are entitled to compensation from WCB are unable to sue any worker or employer when the conduct of that worker or employer that caused or contributed to the injury arose out of and occurred during the course of employment. You should consult a lawyer if you believe that you are entitled to compensation over WCB benefits.
Not all employers and employees are covered by WCB, as the government exempts certain industries from mandatory (compulsory) coverage. For example, the operation of employment agencies, golf courses and massage services are exempt. Check with your employer or WCB to see if you are covered by WCB.
If you own a business, you are not automatically covered by workers’ compensation benefits. If you wish to be covered, you must apply for personal coverage from WCB.
Injuries Covered by WCB
WCB compensates for injuries that occur in the work place, including work-related accidents and diseases. WCB reviews each case individually. Injuries include broken bones, severe cuts and burns, strains or sprains caused by doing the same thing every day, psychological injuries and occupational diseases. Occupational diseases are those caused by certain working conditions. For example, coal miners often develop black lung from working in the coal mines. WCB may also cover a re-injury if a person hurts an old workplace injury during work.
Injuries that are not covered by WCB include health problems not related to your work. For example, diabetes, arthritis, and old sports injuries are not covered by WCB. If a health problem is made worse by a work-related injury, WCB may compensate the person for the time it takes them to recover. Accidents that occur while driving back and forth to work are not covered although some exceptions may apply.
Always keep detailed records of the incidents surrounding an accident or injury at work. WCB will want all original receipts for expenses, so make copies for your own records. Ensure that you have all the information, including;
- The names of all witnesses, their addresses and phone numbers;
- The dates of any doctor’s appointments;
- The dates of speaking with WCB and the names of any employees spoken to;
- The names of any medical professionals visited;
- Any medication taken;
- Any medical treatments received;
- All expenses related to a claim; and
- Records of time lost at work.
Reporting an Injury
Report any injuries to your employer. Report to WCB immediately, and inform them of the medical treatment required and any time away from work. An employer must then make an Employer Report to WCB for the injury within 72 hours.
See a Doctor and return a Worker’s Report of Injury to WCB as soon as possible. A doctor must complete a report and send it to WCB within 48 hours of the visit. WCB should contact the injured person within 7 days if the claim is complete.
If you do not report your claim within a year of the injury, WCB may still consider the claim if you had a good reason for not reporting the claim (Find out more about the claims process).
Information Provided to WCB
WCB is entitled to use and disclose the information collected on a claim to determine entitlement, to provide services and benefits, and as required or authorized by law. This information may be used and disclosed pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. You may request information from your claim file and have it mailed to you or you can pick it up.
If you wish to have someone represent you (as an Agent) to deal with your claim information, you must advise WCB of this by filling out the appropriate form. You may have a friend, family member, interpreter, injured work representative, labour union advocate, lawyer or WCB Appeals Advisor act as your representative.
If a claim is approved for compensation by WCB, the person will be notified by letter. This means that an employer must pay for the entire day the person was injured; it cannot be taken as a sick day.
If a claim is accepted and the person has missed work due to the injury, WCB will begin paying the benefits starting the next working day after the day they were injured. The benefits received will depend upon the injury or illness caused.
Receiving WCB Benefits
If a person cannot work due to their injury, WCB will pay up to 90% of net income to a maximum amount (note: the cap on earnings will be removed for all claims on or after September 1, 2018). Net income is your usual salary less income tax, CPP and employment insurance premiums. WCB does not pay for union dues, Alberta Health Care premiums, or other deductions that you pay. The benefits paid are not taxable and must be reported to Revenue Canada. Benefits will continue as long as a person is unable to return to work due to their injury.
WCB may include earnings from a second job if an injury prevents a person from doing that job as well. Proof of a second income must be provided to WCB.
WCB Compensation for Health Care
A person may be compensated for the cost of health care, based on their individual situation. The following benefits may be paid;
- Hospital expenses;
- Medical treatments (chiropractic, physiotherapy, and counseling sessions);
- Artificial limbs, eyeglasses or dentures (WCB pays for the replacement or repair costs if damaged during a workplace accident);
- Dental treatments;
- Braces, crutches, canes, hearings aids or other aids;
- Clothing; or
- Orthodontic shoes.
WCB may also pay for travel expenses if the treatment is required and is not available near the injured person. Contact your adjudicator or case manager to find out if you are eligible for this benefit.
Returning to Work
WCB adjudicators and case managers will decide whether a person is fit to return to work, based on the doctor’s reports.
A person may return to work to the same tasks or to different tasks. A person may be required to work fewer hours upon returning, and WCB benefits will be adjusted accordingly.
If a person is finding it difficult to return to work, WCB may decide they should take some job training for another type of work. WCB may provide the person with vocational rehabilitation services, such as supported job search programs, training, or counseling. If a person cannot return to work for reasons that are not related to work injuries, they should seek other types of insurance coverage, such as employment insurance or CPP disability benefits.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.