- Changes to the Workers Safety and Compensation Act, passed in the legislature on Dec. 2.
- The updated Act is meant to modernize and clarify the old statutes and include some coverage changes.
Changes to the Workers Safety and Compensation Act, passed in the legislature on Dec. 2, will change the way workers receive compensation and improve coverage for firefighters in the territory.
The minister in charge for the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, Richard Mostyn, said the new legislation “brings Yukon in line with other Canadian jurisdictions” and is now “clear, simple and accessible.”
The new law replaces the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The updated Act is meant to modernize and clarify the old statutes and include some coverage changes.
The Act was last changed in 2008.
It also extends PTSD presumption to cover all workers exposed to traumatic events at work. It also adds nine cancers to the presumptive list. Presumptive coverage means that for workers in particular fields of employment, a cancer diagnosis is assumed to be work-related.
For those that fall outside that parameter — or conditions not included on the presumptive list — the burden falls to employees to prove the illness is work-related.
Several changes have been made to how financial compensation is doled out under the Act. In the future, low-income and older workers will increase their benefits; payment will be simplified for employers whose workers work Outside for short periods. In addition, $15,000 of further compensation will be provided to spouses or other estates of deceased workers to cover funeral costs.
Appeals under the Act will also be simplified, and their period will be reduced from two years to one year for compensation claims.
The original draft of the law of presumptive cancers for firefighters added seven new conditions. Still, after lobbying by the Whitehorse Firefighters Association and opposition politicians, the government modified the legislation to include nine.
The NDP was not as successful at making a second change to the law that included wildland fire in that coverage. The request was backed by Yukon First Nations Wildfire and the Firefighters Association but opposed by the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, who argued that a last-minute change could increase premiums for businesses in several unrelated industries.
Leader Kate White said she wouldn’t go as far as to block the bill’s passing since it contains significant changes, but she said she was disappointed.
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The government chose to pass the bill at the end of the sitting without a chance for debate or amendment, so she could not amend the legislation to include wildland fire.
“I recognize that the minister right now is spending so much of his time fear-mongering within the community about covering wildland firefighters for presumptive cancer that he isn’t prepared to bring it back for discussion today,” she said. “That’s quite telling to me.”
On Oct. 25, Minister Richard Mostyn acknowledged the request to include wildland fire in the House.
He said it could be something the government considers in the future, but in the meantime, all workers are covered through the usual route if they can prove their diagnosis is related to employment.
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