The BC government has proposed changes to workplace compensation laws that would increase the compensation limit that workers can receive and broaden the authorities of WorkSafeBC.
If approved, amendments to the Workers Compensation Act include:
- increasing the maximum annual salary that compensation benefits are based on from $87,000 to $100,000 (with the goal of at least 90 percent of workers having 100 percent of their earnings covered if they are unable to work due to a workplace injury)
- allowing WorkSafeBC to authorize preventive medical treatments before a claim is accepted
- allowing WorkSafeBC to determine a worker’s retirement date (and therefore whether or not someone can work past the age of 65 while continuing to receive benefits)
- eliminating the existing test for determining the method to use (loss of earnings vs. loss of function) for calculating benefits, ensuring workers receive the higher disability payment of the two
- allowing WorkSafeBC to extend the one-year limitation period for bringing forth claims related to mental health
- allowing courts to issue WorkSafeBC search and seizure warrants for workplace safety investigations
- allowing victim impact statements to be heard in court for serious workplace prosecutions
Of particular significance for employers is the addition of personal liability on corporate directors for unpaid premiums or other amounts owed to WorkSafeBC. It is also anticipated that employers will see premium increases due to the new compensation limit at about 1.4 cents for every $100 of payroll.
According to the official press release, the new legislation would also fast-track access to benefits for workers who develop occupational diseases caused by viral pathogens (as in the case with COVID-19).
This announcement comes after the completion of three expert reviews conducted between 2018 and 2019, followed by consultations with employer, labour and Indigenous organizations. For further details, see https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020LBR0020-001278.
In response to hardships faced by businesses and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, WorkSafeBC is currently allowing employers to defer premium payments for six months without penalty or interest and waiving premiums on wages paid to workers of employers receiving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy.