Workers infected with COVID-19 “out of and in the course of” their employment are entitled to benefits under the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, including for lost wages, healthcare costs and permanent impairments arising from the disease. If a worker contracted COVID-19 outside of work, they will not be eligible for such benefits.

Worker’s compensation benefits are only available to workers who have symptoms of COVID-19, according to the agency that decides worker’s compensation claims, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). WSIB’s policy indicates that benefits will not be available for those who are caring for others or who are self-isolating without any symptoms. This approach may not hold where an individual, despite being asymptomatic, ultimately tests positive for COVID-19 that is linked to the workplace.

WSIB considers two main questions to determine whether a worker’s symptoms are work related. First, did the worker’s employment create a risk of contracting the disease to which the public at large is not normally exposed?

In answering that question, WSIB will consider whether

  • A contact source to COVID-19 within the workplace has been identified;
  • The nature and location of employment activities place the worker at risk for exposure to infected persons or substances; and
  • There was an opportunity for transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace via a compatible route to transmission.

Information about the work environment, the worker’s job duties and the use of personal protective equipment are relevant to answering that question.

Second, has the worker’s COVID-19 condition been confirmed? WSIB will determine that question by considering whether

  • The time from the date of the exposure and the onset of the illness are clinically compatible with COVID-19 established to exist in the workplace; and
  • There is a medical diagnosis and, if not, whether the worker’s symptoms are clinically compatible with symptoms produced by COVID-19.

There may be other relevant factors and WSIB will decide each claim on its own merit, having regard to the worker’s individual circumstances.

Workers may be exposed to COVID-19 in and out the workplace. A worker is entitled to benefits if it can be proven that work-related duties or requirements were a significant contributing factor to the worker contracting the disease.

Workers experiencing confirmed symptoms of COVID-19 and unable to work may report their illness to WSIB, in addition to reporting these symptoms to their employer.

Not all Ontario workers are covered by WSIB, however. If you are unsure of your eligibility, you can contact WSIB for more information, or contact our firm to discuss your situation further.

[Note: this information applies to non-unionized employees only. Unionized employees should consult their bargaining agent. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which requires an assessment of your individual circumstances.]