Changes to the Workers Compensation Act will provide better support to injured workers and their families and enhance WorkSafeBC’s ability to investigate workplace incidents, while keeping premiums low.
“For too many years, we have heard from injured workers in B.C. that the system lacks fairness and doesn’t work for them or support them through their injuries,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “Today’s changes are an important step in modernizing the Workers Compensation Act, ensuring workers and their families get the support they need, while also increasing everyone’s confidence in the system.”
The proposed changes focus on improving supports for injured workers, while also advancing worker safety. The changes include:
- raising the maximum annual salary amount on which workers’ compensation benefits are based;
- authorizing WorkSafeBC to provide preventative medical treatment before a claim is accepted;
- giving powers to the court to issue WorkSafeBC search and seizure warrants that are appropriate for investigating workplace safety infractions; and
- giving people a voice in serious workplace prosecutions and trials by using victim impact statements.
This legislation will fast-track the effective date of presumptions if established by WorkSafeBC’s board of directors for occupational diseases caused by viral pathogens. The presumption would simplify the process for workers who make a workers’ compensation claim if they contract viruses on the job. This would ensure that people who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 at work are able to access benefits more quickly.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, WorkSafeBC is allowing businesses to defer paying their premiums for six months without penalty or interest. As well, WorkSafeBC is waiving premiums on wages paid to workers of employers receiving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy for the duration of the program.
The amendments are informed by three expert reviews completed during 2018 and 2019 by Lisa Jean Helps, Paul Petrie and Terry Bogyo. Jeff Parr, an industry expert, then consulted with employers, as well as labour and Indigenous organizations, on potential amendments identified in these three reviews and made recommendations. Parr’s recommendations, and subsequently these legislative changes, also considered workers’ compensation systems in other Canadian jurisdictions and possible effects on future employer premium rates.
Improving fairness in British Columbia’s workplaces is a shared priority between government, the BC Green Party caucus and independent MLA Andrew Weaver, and supports the commitment in the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
- Of the more than 44,000 injured workers currently receiving permanent disability benefits because of a work-related injury, about 35% are in the greater Vancouver area and the rest are spread throughout all regions of B.C.
- Each year, there are over 100,000 new claims due to workplace injury or fatality.
- Last year in B.C., there were 140 workplace fatalities. Of these, 84 were due to occupational disease, 40 were due to traumatic injury and 16 were the result of a motor vehicle incident. In the last five years, WorkSafeBC has conducted an average of 131 investigations per year. In 2019, WorkSafeBC conducted 141 investigations.
- The purpose of a WorkSafeBC investigation is to determine the cause of a serious incident and any contributing factors, so that similar incidents can be prevented from happening in the future.
To read the reports by Helps, Petrie, Bogyo and Parr, visit:
A backgrounder follows.