Return to Work Interrupted

Having a robust return to work plan is in the best interest of both the employer and the injured worker. Studies have shown that the likelihood of a worker returning to full-time meaningful employment increases when their employer provides them with modified duties and tasks that are possible within their restrictions.

Now, this applies during the best of times. But what happens if a worker’s Return to Work program is interrupted by, let’s say, a global pandemic?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Saskatchewan has declared a provincial state of emergency. This has led to business shutdowns or reduced services, both of which have resulted in significant layoffs or inability to offer modified work for workers currently participating in a Return to Work program.

Existing WCB policy states the following:

If a worker’s RTW is interrupted by a strike, lockout, termination, state of emergency or weather, the WCB will establish eligibility for ongoing earnings loss benefits as follows:

  1. If the RTW did not eliminate all earnings loss, the worker will continue to be eligible to receive partial earnings loss benefits.

  2. If the RTW eliminated all earnings loss, the worker is not eligible to receive earnings loss benefits.

This means that if a worker was able to return to full-time employment (modified duties or otherwise) prior to the interruption, they are not eligible for wage loss benefits during the state of emergency. If a worker was not working, or working reduced hours, they will continue to receive wage loss benefits following the interruption until either one of two conditions is met: the worker is considered recovered from their work injury and it no longer affects their ability to return to pre-injury duties or the worker is able to resume their Return to Work program with their employer (i.e. the employer is able to rehire workforce who were laid off due to Covid-19).

If a worker was receiving long term wage loss benefits (i.e., due to permanent restrictions) at the time of layoff, the worker will continue to receive the same level of long-term wage loss benefits that they were receiving prior to the layoff.

But where does this leave employers?

As wage loss benefits continue to be distributed and claim costs rise, so does the potential of increased WCB premiums. The good news is, the WCB has assured organizations by releasing a new policy specific to COVID-19. This policy states that employers will receive cost relief for wage loss benefits paid to a worker whose Return to Work program has been interrupted due to COVID-19.

If this situation sounds familiar and you think it may apply to you as an employer, keep an eye on these particular claims – it is unclear at this time if cost relief will be automatically applied to your employer account, or if it must be requested in the coming months.

Further details can be found here: Saskatchewan WCB Policy. 

If you would like more information on managing WCB claims in Saskatchewan, please register for our upcoming Claims Management webinar on Tuesday, May 19th.

Service Hospitality is here to help you through this challenging and confusing time, albeit from our physically-distanced home offices. For more information or consultation, please reach out to a Service Hospitality Advisor at [email protected]

 

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