On August 14, 2020, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020 (Bill 23) was passed into law, bringing into immediate effect a number of significant changes to BC's workers compensation system.
What does this mean for businesses and employees?
The legislation amended 34 provisions of the Workers Compensation Act which address workplace health and safety investigations, workers compensation entitlement and access, authorities of WorkSafeBC and collection of unpaid assessments. Notable changes already in force include:
- the introduction of a simplified process allowing workers who develop occupational diseases caused by viral pathogens (i.e. COVID-19) to access benefits faster
- WorkSafeBC can now authorize preventive medical treatments before a claim is accepted
- the maximum annual salary that compensation benefits are based on has increased 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)
- WorkSafeBC can now extend the one-year limitation period for bringing forth claims related to mental health
- courts may grant WorkSafeBC search and seizure powers where there is reasonable grounds to believe that an offence under the Workplace Compensation Act has or is being committed
- directors of corporations may now be held personally liable for unpaid premiums or other amounts owed to WorkSafeBC
- WorkSafeBC can now pursue unpaid amounts owed by an employer from third parties who are indebted to or likely to become indebted to the employer
Two of the amendments will come into effect on January 21, 2021:
- WorkSafeBC will have the authority to determine a worker's retirement age (and therefore whether or not someone can work past the age of 65 and continue to receive benefits)
- the existing test for determining the method (loss of earnings vs. loss of function) for calculating benefits will be eliminated, ensuring workers always receive the higher disability payment of the two
For more information on the changes to BC's workers compensation laws, visit this WorkSafeBC webpage.