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Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
May 25, 2020

Bill 191 - Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Presumption Respecting COVID-19), 2020

By Gillian Howe
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On May 19, 2020, Bill 191, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Presumption Respecting COVID-19), 2020 (“Bill 191”), was introduced in the Ontario Legislature as a Private Member’s Bill and its First Reading carried.

Bill 191 still must go to Committee, pass a Second Reading and Third Reading, and receive Royal Assent before it can be made law. Accordingly, currently the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (Ontario) (“WSIA”) has not been amended as proposed under Bill 191. 

If passed, Bill 191 would amend the WSIA adding a new section 15.0.1, to create a rebuttable presumption that if a worker for an essential business receives a positive test for COVID-19, the disease will be presumed to be an occupational disease that occurs due to the nature of the worker’s work, unless the contrary is shown.

This rebuttable presumption would shift the evidentiary onus with respect to a claim for benefits from the worker to the employer. Instead of a worker having to prove that their contraction of COVID-19 was work-related, the employer would be required to establish that the worker’s contraction of COVID-19 was not work-related.

The rebuttable presumption would apply in the following circumstances:

  • 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 (“EMCPA”), regardless of when the business is or was listed as an essential business in an order made under the EMCPA;
  • with respect to workers who receive a positive COVID-19 test on or after January 25, 2020; and
  • whether the worker works for the essential business as an employee or otherwise.

Section 15.0.1(7) of Bill 191 would allow workers that had filed and been denied a claim for entitlement to benefits relating to COVID-19, to refile their claim and have the claim assessed in accordance with the proposed new section 15.0.1. 

We will continue to update our clients with respect to new developments as they emerge.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 and your workplace, or any other human resource law issue, please contact a member of our team. For more information about dealing with COVID-19, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre.