Accidents at work can happen to anyone, even if your job is not high-risk. In Quebec, workers can get compensation in some cases. The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST or labour standards, pay equity and workplace health and safety board) handles requests for compensation.
What is a workplace accident?
In Quebec, it means getting hurt at work while doing your job. If you have a workplace accident, you could get compensation and other kinds of help.
Only some kinds of accidents are covered. The accident must:
- be sudden and unexpected,
- happen while you are doing your job or doing something your employer told you to do, and
- it must cause an injury or illness.
The injury or illness can be physical or psychological. For example, you could have post-traumatic stress after an armed robbery where you work.
Important! If you were very careless and got injured or sick on the job, it is not a “workplace accident.”
What should I do after a workplace accident?
Tell your immediate supervisor or another employer representative as soon as possible. Your employer must offer you first aid. Depending on your condition, your employer must also have you brought home, to the hospital or to the doctor or nurse practitioner of your choice. The employer must pay for your transportation.
You must also see a health care professional to get a medical certificate. If you can’t return to work, you must give the certificate to your employer to get paid while you’re absent.
Will I get paid?
- Day of the accident: Your employer must pay your full salary for that day, even if you had to leave early.
- For two weeks after the accident: Your employer must pay 90% of your net salary for each day you would normally have worked.
- More than two weeks after the accident: You must apply to the CNESST for compensation (see below).
No matter how long you’re off work, you can also ask the CNESST to pay some of your medical expenses.
Applying to the CNESST
If you are off work for more than two weeks after the accident, or if you want a refund for some of your medical expenses, you must complete a CNESST form called the Worker’s Claim. Make sure you fill out the whole form and attach the necessary documents. You must also give a copy of the form to your employer.
The CNESST or your employer can ask you to have other medical tests. You must agree to these tests. Your employer or the CNESST will pay for them.
The CNESST will look at your file and decide if you can have compensation for your salary and if your medical expenses will be paid.
Challenging a CNESST decision
You have 30 days to challenge a CNESST decision and give your arguments. The CNESST will then make a second decision.
If you don’t agree with the second CNESST decision, you can ask a special kind of court to review your case. This court is called the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT or administrative labour tribunal). You usually have 60 days to ask the TAT for a decision.
If you challenge the CNESST’s initial decision and it doesn’t give a second decision within 90 days of receiving your request, you can turn to the TAT. However, you’ll have to wait longer than 90 days in some cases.
Could I lose my job?
You can’t be fired for having a workplace accident.
Once your doctor says you can go back to work, you must tell your employer. You’re allowed to go back to the job you had before your accident.
Sometimes you can’t go back to your old job: maybe it doesn’t exist anymore or you can’t do it because of the accident. In that case, your employer must offer you an equivalent job or a suitable job.
The right to go back to your job doesn’t last forever. Starting from the first day you miss work, you have
- one year to go back if the company has 20 employees or less,
- two years to go back if the company has more than 20 employees,
- If you’re a unionized worker: until the end of the timeframe specified in your collective agreement, if it’s longer than one or two years.
If your work contract ends on a specific date, you can go back to your job until then.
Even after these dates, your employer may have to let you come back to the company if
- You’re able to do your old job,
- You’re able to work at an equivalent job at the company,
- Another suitable job is available at the company.
If your employer refuses to let you come back, they’d have to prove that it’s because it would create an excessive burden for them. In other words, they’d have to prove that they’d have to take unreasonable or impractical measures to let you come back. This is what is called the “duty to make reasonable accommodations”.
Remember to tell the CNESST when you go back to work.
Are all Quebecers covered by the CNESST?
Most employees are automatically insured by the CNESST for workplace accidents and don’t have to pay anything to be covered. However, some workers must register and pay to be covered by the CNESST, such as self-employed workers and people who employ others.