Bill 191 – An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, (COVID-19)
Written By: Lou Smargiassi (Senior Litigation Paralegal)
At Watson Labour Law we are placing a ‘spotlight’ for our stakeholders directly on an important Private Member’s Bill 191 that is before the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Our collective efforts on behalf of the essential business workers in seeing this Bill is passed into law is critical to the lives of workers and their families.
Bill 191 – An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 with respect to presumptions in connection with COVID-19 for workers in essential businesses.
The amendment states in part:
Application, essential business workers
15.0.1 (1) This section applies with respect to workers who work for a business listed as an essential business in an order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
If a worker receives a positive test for the disease known as COVID-19, the disease is presumed to be an occupational disease that occurs due to the nature of the worker’s work, unless the contrary is shown.
The legislation proposes to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) by adding COVID-19 to the list of occupational diseases recognized by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
It seeks to ensure workers who work for a business that has been listed as an essential business, by an order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and, who receives a positive COVID-19 test, is presumed to be entitled to WSIB benefits and services unless the employer can prove the contrary.
This is an important Bill to pass because the burden of proof usually rests with the worker and now shifts to the Employer to prove the contrary.
The status of Bill 191 remains at 1st Reading before our elected members of parliament since May 19, 2020.
For those who may not be familiar with the process of having a Bill passed into law in Ontario, following the 1st Reading, there are five additional steps necessary:
- 2nd Reading
- Review by Committee
- Report to the House
- 3rd Reading and,
- Royal Assent.
While the WSIB is taking a case-by-case approach to adjudicating COVID-19 claims for workers at this time, Watson Labour Law believes the passing of the proposed Bill 191 – COVID-19 amendment to the (WSIA) is critical to the hard- working men and women providing essential business services to the people of Ontario.
On January 20, 2021 the Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced; Provincewide inspection blitzes will ensure essential businesses are operating safely.
At Watson Labour Law we know all too well that essential business worker safety is of paramount importance to keeping our province open. However, we also know that during the pandemic employers have been legislatively supported by their actions in negatively impacting the lives of workers through the erosion of their statutory rights around severances and grievances, etc.
This just doesn’t add up!
The MOL also has accountability for the WSIB who administer the WSIA. The MOL speaks to caring for workers yet an important proposed legislative Bill that these same workers need to rely on sits before the House since May 19, 2020.
Workers are not only concerned about their safety, but also need government assurances that in the event of an unfortunate workplace exposure to a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, they will receive the WSIB benefits they so justly deserve.
Noting the status of Bill 191 (1st Reading) the pathway to making it law may take some time. This delay is simply not acceptable during this unprecedented time and, we urge our readers and union stakeholder community to consider filing submissions to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario impressing on them the importance of passing Bill 191 into law for worker members.
We also encourage you to develop a template letter for ease of use by your members so they can individually submit their concerns to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, MPP and Ministry of Labour, demanding that Bill 191 be passed into law.
Watson Labour Law is available to assist our readers with your submission and/or template letters as required.
It is time for Bill 191 to be enacted as law under the (WSIA).
January 28, 2021