On April 15, 2021, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) published helpful new information on its website in respect of eligibility for WSIB benefits in the case of a COVID-19 vaccine reaction.
Pursuant to the WSIB’s FAQ about claims and COVID-19, it is only where a COVID-19 vaccine is received by an employee as a compulsory part of their employment and results in an adverse reaction that the employee may be eligible for benefits:
- In order to be deemed to be compulsory, immunization will generally have to be required pursuant to a workplace rule or policy, or instigated by the employer using some element of coercion (e.g., threat of termination of employment, job changes, or other penalties).
- Expected reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine may include fever, chills, pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headaches. These symptoms will not generally constitute an adverse reaction for the purposes of WSIB entitlement. Rather, it is where the reaction is serious and unexpected – including, for example, where medical treatment beyond first aid is required and/or the reaction causes the employee to be absent from work for more than a few days – that the threshold will be met. In other words, an adverse reaction will usually be one that rises to the level that it should be reported to a local public health unit.
Of note, where an employer is made aware that a vaccination received by an employee as a compulsory part of their employment has triggered an adverse reaction, the employer is obligated to report the injury or illness to the WSIB. That said, even if the employee’s claim for benefits is accepted, the costs associated with COVID-19 vaccination claims will not be allocated at an employer or class level. Rather, they will be allocated on a Schedule-wide basis. Further, employers will not show an incident against their records, nor will they be subject to a change in premium rates.
In Our View
Given all of the uncertainty surrounding the implications of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers will be pleased to receive some concrete guidance from the WSIB on a timely issue such as vaccination illnesses and injuries.