Posted on May 11, 2021


EDMONTON – The Alberta NDP is proposing to bring forward legislation to provide protection for essential workers who become infected with COVID-19 while on the job.

“For more than a year now, the threat of COVID-19 has been constant for essential workers. These Albertans don’t have the option of working from home. They have to show up for work in person, and that puts them at increased risk of a COVID-19 infection,” said Heather Sweet, MLA for Edmonton-Manning who planned to bring this legislation forward as a Private Member’s Bill before the UCP halted the spring session. 

The Alberta NDP successfully passed legislation for paid vaccination leave for all Alberta workers so individuals are protected without losing part of their income when going to get a vaccination. Proposals for paid sick leave for Alberta workers were also brought forward by the NDP.

“There is a third pillar of support we need to provide workers. We need to provide support and financial protection for those who become infected with COVID-19 while on the job,” said Sweet.

Currently the active case count in Alberta is 25,438, which is the highest it's been during the pandemic. 

There is no formal description of COVID-19 as an occupational disease in current WCB policy, and while the Workers Compensation Board say it is “likely” that a claim is to be accepted if the worker contracts the illness while working their essential service job, 18% of COVID-19 claims to the WCB have been denied over the last year. 

Jason Soklofske has been an Advanced Care Paramedic in Medicine Hat for nearly 14 years, and explained that having the additional stress of worrying about a WCB claim if he were to contract COVID-19 on the job is unnecessary. 

“If someone who has been working contracts COVID, their number one goal needs to be to isolate and to get better,” said Soklofske. “No worker should have to face the additional stress of an internal, employer-controlled investigation before their WCB coverage can begin. Presumptive coverage would give us all the peace of mind that if we do contract the disease, we will have access to no-fault coverage.”

Other provinces have introduced similar presumptive coverage for workers. British Columbia included presumptive COVID coverage in their Workers Compensation Act in August 2020. Ontario added COVID-19 as an occupational disease to their Workplace Safety and Insurance act in March 2020. 

The NDP’s bill will also restore the PTSD provision removed by the UCP in Bill 47.

“Alberta is behind other provinces for this coverage,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “The UCP is going in the opposite direction. Jason Kenney removed PTSD coverage for workers last year with Bill 47. We need appropriate support to help frontline workers get through this in a healthy way and to care for them as they have worked so hard to care for all of us.”