Our Corporate and Commercial clients should take notice that Bill 41 – 2022: Workers Compensation Amendment Act (No. 2), 2022, received Royal Assent on November 24, 2022 (the “Amendments”).
These Amendments introduce important changes to BC’s Workers Compensation Act (the “WCA”). This has many implications for how employers are expected to deal with injured workers. Employers should be up to date on these changes since they have a significant effect on administrative decisions, cost calculations, and employee relations policies.
First, employees who have been employed for 12 continuous months before their injury and who were injured at work are entitled to reinstatement in a suitable role. This applies to employees who sustained their injuries within two years of the amendments coming into force. Employers now have an obligation to accommodate such injured employees to the point of undue hardship. This standard is measured by the specific circumstances of the case but financial detriment and workplace disruption can be taken into account. An employer who terminates an injured employee within 6 months of returning to work can be deemed in breach of the new obligations unless the employer can show that the termination is for other legitimate reasons. Businesses who employ fewer than 20 employees are exempt. Additionally, if an employee has not returned to work two years after being injured, the employer is then released from their obligation to maintain employment.
WorkSafeBC is in charge of resolving disputes between employers and employees and each is entitled to make complaints about the other. As such, both employers and employees have a duty to cooperate in order to find suitable work for an injured employee.
Under the Amendments, employers face additional penalties if they attempt to prevent employees from reporting injuries or claim compensation. WorkSafeBC will investigate and impose fines if an employer is in breach of the obligations. To facilitate these investigations the Amendments also established a Fair Practices Commissioner who reports to WorkSafeBC, makes recommendations, and creates an annual report.
Since many of these amendments result in increased administrative costs, employers would be prudent to update their workplace injury policies in response to these changes. Proactivity will also reduce the likelihood of being found in breach of the new obligations.