by Morinville News Staff
The government says An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans would improve workplace health and safety and provide fair compensation and meaningful support to injured workers and their families. The changes would also ensure Alberta workers have the same rights and protections as other Canadians.
“Every Albertan should be able to go to work and come home healthy and safe at the end of the workday,” Christina Gray, Minister of Labour, said in a release Monday. “When they don’t, they deserve to have access to the medical and financial supports they need to get healthy, care for their families and return to work. This bill would better protect hardworking Albertans and provide fair compensation to Albertans injured on the job.”
The government says the Bill would modernize Alberta’s health and safety system to reflect modern workplaces, increase employee participation, improve safety, and increase supports to injured workers.
The proposed changes in the Act are the result of the government’s review of the OHS system and an independent review of the WCB system. If passed, the majority of changes to WCB and OHS would come into effect Jan. 1 and June 1, 2018, respectively.
Workers’ Compensation Board changes include establishing an independent Fair Practices Office that helps Albertans navigate the WCB system by providing additional resources to support workers every step of the way, establishing a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers.
Additionally, the ACT will remove the maximum insurable earnings cap of $98,700 per year, allowing injured workers to receive benefits in line with their expected annual earnings.
The Act also looks at improving benefits for surviving spouses and children when a worker is killed on the job, young workers who sustain a long-term injury that affects their career opportunities, and improving retirement benefits for injured workers to better recognize the impact on an injured worker’s retirement savings.
The Act will also provide an option for interim relief while decisions are under review and appeal. The government says this will help reduce potential hardship while disputed claims are being reviewed or awaiting appeal.
Three basic workers rights will be enshrined in Alberta’s legislation: The right to refuse unsafe work, the right to know about potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace, and the right to participate in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.
The Act will mandate joint worksite health and safety committees for workplaces with 20 or more employees.
Companies with five to 19 workers will be required to have a health and safety representative in the workplace.
Another measure in the Act is protecting workers from workplace violence and harassment, including new legislative definitions as well as outlining the responsibility of employers and supervisors to prevent workplace violence and harassment, and workers to refrain from these activities.
Workplace safety changes can be found here.
Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans can be found here