New COVID-19 Presumption in the Workers Compensation Act
As of August 20, 2020, REALTORS® have yet another reason to maintain high standards of hygiene and safety. Schedule 1 of the BC Workers Compensation Act includes a new presumption for infections caused by communicable viral pathogens, such as COVID-19, that are the subject of a Public Health Act notice or a declared state of emergency.
The new COVID-19 presumption in Schedule 1 of the Act applies to "workers" covered by the Act who meet all of the specified requirements in Schedule 1. Basically, this means that if a worker is diagnosed with a disease listed in Schedule 1, it's presumed that they got it in the workplace. For real estate, workers include:
- employees of the brokerage (including any Realtors who don't meet the conditions used by WorkSafeBC to be considered an "independent operator" Realtor for the purposes of the Act - see WorkSafeBC's Assessment Practice Directive 1-1-3(A) for more information),
- "independent operator" Realtors who have incorporated (as the Realtor would be considered an employee of the incorporated entity),
- "independent operator" Realtors who have purchased Personal Optional Protection (POP) coverage from WorkSafeBC (because the Realtor would be considered to be a "worker" for the purposes of the Act throughout the period that the Realtor's POP coverage remains in good standing), and
- any employees the "independent operator" Realtor employs.
It's also important to know that "employment," "work" and "workplace" are very broadly interpreted when it comes to workers' compensation. For example, a REALTOR® who is considered a worker for WorkSafeBC purposes is considered to be at work when in the brokerage office, showing a property and even while driving from the office to a client's property.
Lots of resources are available to help Realtors operate safely, including:
- Real Estate Protocols for Returning to Operation (WorkSafeBC)
- Checklist for Managing Brokers (Real Estate Council of British Columbia and BCREA)
- Rethinking "Open Houses" During the Pandemic (Real Estate Council of British Columbia and BCREA)
These are the new "Description of Disease" and corresponding "Description of Process or Industry" that have been added to Schedule 1 of the Act:
The following conditions must be met for the above Schedule 1 presumption to apply:
- The worker must be diagnosed with an infection caused by communicable viral pathogens (such as COVID-19).
- The infection must be the subject of a Public Health Act notice or a declared state of emergency.
- The risk of exposure by the worker to a source of the infection is significantly greater than the public at large and occurs during, and within the geographical area of, the applicable notice or state of emergency.
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