Summary of proposed legislative changes
These amendments address needed improvements to the workers’ compensation system to better support injured workers and their families, while keeping the system affordable and stable over the long term for employers.
The following are the significant proposed legislative changes.
Improvements to support workers
- Increasing the amount injured workers will receive through their benefits:
- Increasing the maximum insurable earnings to $100,000 from $87,100. The goal is that at least 90% of B.C.’s workers will have 100% of their earnings covered if they are unable to work due to a workplace injury.
- Allowing WorkSafeBC to determine a worker’s retirement date, therefore the date loss-of-earnings benefits would end, when that worker is nearing age 65, rather than at the time of injury. This allows WorkSafeBC to better determine whether someone may work past the age of 65 and continue receiving benefits.
- Eliminating the existing test for determining when the loss of earnings or the loss of function method should be used in calculating benefits and ensuring workers will always receive the disability payment that is the higher of the two.
- Expediting health care for a worker before a claim is accepted, when treatment will likely prevent a significant deterioration in health, such as counselling for a mental health issue or preventative treatment for a possible HIV infection.
- Removing a barrier to mental health claims that requires workers to submit a claim within one year from the date of exposure to a workplace traumatic event or stressor. This time limit is not realistic for most workers, given the delay or gradual onset of some mental disorders, so the changes allow WorkSafeBC to develop a policy that recognizes the unique nature of these claims and adjust the one-year limit.
Supporting worker safety
- Giving WorkSafeBC the powers of search and seizure for workplace investigations (through judge-granted warrants) through the Workers Compensation Act, rather than the Offence Act. This could include: the ability to collect samples, search hard drives, seize or compel documents and obtain tele-warrants. This will provide WorkSafeBC with appropriate power to investigate workplace safety infractions when prosecution is being considered.
- Removing the requirement that WorkSafeBC’s president must approve an offence referral to Crown counsel, streamlining the process.
- Allowing courts to hear victim impact statements as part of a prosecution relating to occupational health and safety violations. Victim impact statements are a way for victims to have their say and have a deep meaning to those who provide them.
- Giving courts the power to direct a convicted employer to publish, at their expense, facts about their offences, such as how they contravened the act and the penalties they face. For example, an employer may be ordered to publish these facts in a newspaper or company-wide newsletter. This can act as a deterrent for other employers and provide education on workplace safety issues.
Improving the workers’ compensation system
- Allowing the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal to hear cases relating to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Human Rights Code. For example, a worker may bring concerns about being discriminated against by an employer with respect to a workplace injury before the tribunal.
- Establishing liability on corporate directors for unpaid premiums or other amounts owed to WorkSafeBC, making it harder for employers to avoid paying premiums and levelling the playing field for employers that follow the rules.
- Allowing WorkSafeBC to correct or acknowledge obvious errors of a decision past the 75-day time limit for reconsideration, which will be fairer for workers and employers when an erroneous decision is made. For example, previously if WorkSafeBC made a mistake in determining worker benefits, that decision could not be corrected and the worker compensated unless the mistake was discovered within 75 days of a decision.
WorkSafeBC’s Accident Fund
The workers’ compensation system has been in place since 1917 to provide no-fault compensation benefits to injured workers and surviving dependants for work-related injuries, diseases, mental health disorders and fatalities, along with health care and vocational rehabilitation services for injured workers.
Funding for the workers’ compensation system is generally collected through payroll assessments (premiums) that WorkSafeBC levies on employers and investment returns. The funds are deposited into WorkSafeBC’s Accident Fund, out of which workers’ compensation benefits and other services, including health care and vocational rehabilitation, are provided to injured workers and to surviving dependants when there is a workplace fatality.
Informing the amendments
These changes were informed by recommendations from expert consultant Jeff Parr. His report, Consultation Report on Potential Amendments to British Columbia’s Workers Compensation Act, was released in conjunction with the Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2020.
Parr’s recommendations were based on and informed by three reports. Each looked at a different aspect of the workers’ compensation system: WorkSafeBC’s approach to investigations and prosecutions (Helps Report), WorkSafeBC policies (Petrie Report) and the WorkSafeBC Accident Fund (Bogyo Report). Parr also consulted with industry, organizations, Indigenous organizations and interest groups to further enhance his understanding of the topics for his report. Parr’s report was received by the Minister of Labour in February 2020 and is a foundational piece informing the provisions in this legislation.