We’re in the third wave of the pandemic and workplaces are a significant source of the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. The Workers’ Action Centre has had calls from people who’ve caught the virus at work and didn’t know what to do next. Brampton’s Amazon warehouse, which was recently ordered closed for 14 days because of an outbreak, is just one well-known example . So what can we do if we are infected or exposed to the virus at work?
If you are exposed or infected with COVID-19 and miss 50% of your work week, then you can apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).* The CRSB lasts only four weeks, but your illness or complications from the virus may last longer.
It’s crucial that you file a claim at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) if you got COVID-19 at work. It’s against the law for your employer to tell you not to file a claim. It’s important to know that if you receive benefits from workers’ compensation (WSIB), you will not have to pay back the sickness benefits (CRSB) you received. For workers to make a successful claim with the WSIB, we have to prove that we contracted the virus at work.
How can you prove that you contracted COVID-19 at work? Your claim should show that a health professional has confirmed your diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19. There must also be evidence that your work conditions put you at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 than the general public, and significantly contributed to your illness. For example, a cashier at a grocery store may point to the high number of customers they come in contact with during their shift. It would be helpful to also note that interactions with the public are not protected by the shield that’s supposed to keep them safe. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you prepare to file a claim:
- Is there knowledge of an existing case of COVID-19 at your workplace?
- What are the nature and location of your employment activities? Do they put you at risk for exposure to infected people or substances?
- Was there an opportunity for COVID-19 to be transmitted in the workplace?
For some of us, employers now expect us to work from home. Suppose you catch COVID-19 at home or somewhere else your employer expects you to be while doing work-related activities. In that case, you may still be eligible for WSIB coverage.
We encourage you to call the Workers’ Action Centre for support in making your claim. Call the Workers’ Rights Phone Line at 416-531-0778 (or toll-free at 1-855-531-0778). To file a claim online, visit the WSIB website or call them at 1-800-387-0750, Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm.
Even if you are not ill, you can report an exposure incident online with the WSIB. You may know you’ve been exposed because a coworker tested positive. Make sure your employer knows what’s happened and apply for the CRSB, which covers COVID-19 quarantines. It’s so important that we all follow public health recommendations, though we know it’s hard without employer-paid sick days. Reporting an exposure is NOT making a claim, and you cannot get benefits if you do not display symptoms. You may find that you develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive later on. At that time, you can make a claim with the WSIB and, if you’ve already made an exposure report with them, it may make it easier to get your benefits.
*Please call our Workers’ Rights Phone Line at 416-531-0778 if you have questions about your eligibility or need support applying for the federal sickness benefit (CRSB).