Bill 6: Changes to WCB Coverage in the Farm & Ranch Industry

Bill 6: Changes to WCB Coverage in the Farm & Ranch Industry

On December 10, 2015, the Alberta government passed an amended Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (“Act”).  It was proclaimed to come into effect on January 1, 2016. The new rules in this Act have some changes for Alberta’s farming and ranching community and their paid workers.

One of the most notable changes relates to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). Previously, the farm and ranch industry was one of the few WCB-exempt industries, and farmers and ranchers did not require WCB coverage for their paid workers. As of January 1, 2016, all farm and ranch operations in Alberta must provide WCB coverage for their paid workers.

The Government of Alberta provided some leniency, allowing farm and ranch operations to apply for WCB coverage up to and including April 30, 2016. As this deadline has now passed, it is especially important all Medicine Hat and area farm and ranch employers apply for WCB coverage immediately if they have not already done so. You can find out more about applying at www.wcb.ab.ca/insurance-and-premiums/types-of-coverage/farming-coverage/ or by phone at 1-866-922-9221.

The Act provides some exclusions to the WCB requirements. Farm and ranch businesses are not required to provide WCB coverage for the following workers:

  • Volunteers: If unpaid neighbours, friends or other volunteers choose to work on your farm or ranch, whether this work occurs on a regular basis or only occasionally, you are not required to have WCB coverage for these workers.

The volunteer exclusion applies to farms and ranches that are:

  • sole proprietorships;
  • partnerships; and
  • incorporated companies.
  • Family Members: The farm and ranch owner is not required to have WCB coverage for family members. Family members of the farm and ranch owner include spouses, adult interdependent partners, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and first cousins. These relationships may be by blood, marriage, adult interdependent relationship, or adoption. You are not required by law to have WCB coverage for these family members even if they are paid employees of your farming and ranching business.

The family member exclusion applies to farms and ranches that are:

  • sole proprietorships, where the owner is a family member;
  • a partnership where the only partners are family members; and
  • an incorporated company where the only shareholders are family members.

Although not mandatory, optional WCB coverage for volunteers and family members is available to you. This coverage would protect you as the employer from the risk of a lawsuit, as well as provide an alternate form of employment income to these volunteers and family members if they are injured while working for your business. Therefore, although it is not mandatory, the optional WCB coverage is worth considering as a way to avoid these financial risks to your business.

The Government of Alberta will be publishing Regulations under the Act that will apply to farms and ranches with at least one waged, non-family worker, in the upcoming months. These Regulations are expected to affect other Alberta legislation including the Occupational & Health Safety Act, the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code as they apply to farming and ranching businesses.

It is important for farmers and ranchers to understand the changes that have already been implemented (such as mandatory WCB coverage for waged, non-family workers), and those that are coming. If you have any questions about the new Act and its impact on your business, our firm would be pleased to assist you.

Pritchard & Co. Law Firm LLP helps you navigate the turning points of life. Contact one of our lawyers at (403) 527-4411 or email us at lawyers@pritchardandco.com

 

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Pritchard and Co
Pritchard and Co. Law Firm, LLP helps you navigate the turning points of life. Contact us at 403-527-4411 or at lawyers@pritchardandco.com.