Update July 24, 2020: On July 22, 2020 the WorkSafeBC board of directors passed the changes adding a presumption for communicable viral pathogens to Schedule 1 of the Workers Compensation Act. As of today, the change is scheduled to come into force on October 26, 2020 (the in-force date is the subject of a legislative amendment currently before the B.C. Legislature).
The rules with regard to the proposal to add a presumption for communicable viral pathogens subject to a provincial state of emergency (e.g., COVID-19) were changed after the consultation has closed, and WorkSafeBC (with the backing of Government) has added a presumption for COVID-19 to the workplace illness schedule of the Workers Compensation Act, ignoring both stakeholders and the WorkSafeBC scientific experts. An amendment to the WCA will remove the 90-day waiting period between the date of that decision and that change coming into force, once passed.
Update July 23, 2020: Business and employer associations, including RCC, wrote the BC Government with strong objections to the proposed legislation. Read letter
The B.C. New Democratic Party government has introduced Bill 23, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020. The bill makes a large number of changes to the Workers Compensation Act pursuant to three reviews (Helps, Bojko and Parr) but does not yet consider a further review (Patterson) that business views as very biased towards the demands of organized labour. The Patterson report will be released in August and will result in pressure from labour to present yet another set of amendments.
The principal impact of the Bill 23 amendments will be to the system costs and therefore these will impact assessment rates for all employers. The changes include three increases to amounts injured workers receive through their benefits:
- An increase in the maximum insurable earnings from $87,100 to $100,000.
- Allowing WorkSafeBC to determine a worker’s retirement date, therefore the date loss-of-earnings benefits would end. This will allow WorkSafeBC to 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 always receive the disability payment that is the higher of the two.
The Act will establish liability for directors of a corporation for unpaid premiums or other monies owed to WorkSafeBC. It will also allow the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal to hear cases relating to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the B.C. Human Rights Code. It will also allow WorkSafeBC to “correct or acknowledge obvious errors” of past decisions beyond the current 75-day time limit.
The amendments include a provision to bring the recently-added “presumption” provision regarding communicable viral pathogens into force without the normal 90-day waiting period. Currently the presumption would come into force on October 26, 2020.
Other significant changes will:
- Allow workers to access health care before a claim decision is made.
- Remove the limit that requires workers to submit a mental health claim within one year from the date of exposure to a workplace traumatic event or stressor.
- Provide WorkSafeBC with search and seizure for workplace investigations (through judicial warrants) under the Workers Compensation Act rather than the Offence Act.
- Allowing courts to hear victim impact statements as part of a prosecution relating to OHS violations.
- Providing courts with the power to direct a convicted employer, at the employer’s expense, facts about offenses and the penalties they face.