In October 2022, the B.C. government announced Bill 41, introducing seven amendments to the Workers Compensation Act. Three amendments took effect on November 24, 2022, and the remaining four amendments are taking effect in 2023 and 2024.
Effective in 2022
Indexation of benefits
Bill 41 changes how workers’ compensation benefits are adjusted for inflation each year. To index benefits, the annual increase in the consumer price index (CPI) with an automatic 1 percent reduction was replaced with full CPI indexing. The maximum annual indexing of 4 percent was also eliminated, with the option to provide an increase that is more than 4 percent but not greater than the CPI.
Going forward, the changes are intended to ensure injured workers’ pensions keep pace with the increasing cost of living. More detailed information on CPI-related adjustments is available here.
Compensation for non-traumatic hearing loss
This amendment allows WorkSafeBC to increase the maximum compensation for non-traumatic hearing loss. The change came into effect as WorkSafeBC was conducting a public consultation on broader changes to Schedule 2 of the Workers Compensation Act, used to determine compensation for workers who have developed gradual hearing loss because of exposure to occupational noise.
On January 25, 2023, the Board of Directors approved the proposed amendments alongside changes to policy to reflect current scientific and medical literature, which included increasing the percentages of total disability for total hearing loss in one ear, and for complete hearing loss in both ears. Changes to Schedule 2 will be effective on May 15, 2023.
Bill 41 also expands WorkSafeBC’s ability to prohibit employers from suppressing workers’ compensation claims. Claims suppression occurs when an employer discourages a worker from filing a compensation claim, or punishes them for doing so through dismissal, discipline, or other retaliatory action.
While WorkSafeBC already investigates allegations of claims suppression, the amendment adds explicit provisions against employers dissuading workers from filing a claim, with enforcement through penalties under the occupational health and safety provisions of the Workers Compensation Act. We are looking at all options available for outreach, education, and enforcement, and will communicate with our stakeholders as we progress.
Effective in 2023 and 2024
Independent medical examinations
As of April 3, 2023, workers and employers with a decision before the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) can request a review by independent health professionals. Please contact WCAT for further information.
Interest on delayed benefit payments
Effective April 3, 2023, the interest provision in the Workers Compensation Act was expanded to ensure WorkSafeBC pays interest to workers on delayed benefit payments following a review or an appeal. See Calculation of Retroactive Interest for an overview of how this has been implemented.
Fair practices commissioner
As of May 1, 2023, the Board of Directors has appointed a fair practices commissioner, whose mandate will be to investigate complaints from workers, employers, and workers’ dependants of alleged unfairness, and help WorkSafeBC address systemic matters of fairness.
For more information on the commissioner’s role and the review process, please visit worksafebcfairpracticescommissioner.com.
Duty to cooperate and duty to maintain employment
The final amendment comes into force by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council on January 1, 2024. This amendment adds a legal duty for workers and employers to cooperate in the worker’s early and safe return to work, as well as a legal duty for employers with 20 or more workers to maintain the employment of injured workers who have been employed with them for at least 12 months.
This amendment provides WorkSafeBC with the authority to reduce or suspend benefits or apply penalties should workers or employers fail to comply. However, our approach will focus primarily on educating our stakeholders, providing support to ensure that the injured worker remains employed with their employer, and facilitating the best return-to-work outcomes.
For more information on our approach and what the changes mean for workers and employers, see:
- Employers: Duty to cooperate and duty to maintain employment
- Workers: Duty to cooperate and duty to maintain employment
This fall, WorkSafeBC is working on new policies, practice directives, and other resources to support the new obligations when they come into effect on January 1.
More info: WorkSafeBC