As we previously reported, the B.C. Government amended the Workers Compensation Act (the “WCA Amendments”) to impose new obligations on B.C. employers in respect of the return of injured workers to their job.
Effective January 1, 2024, B.C. employers will have a statutory obligation to return injured workers to their job. These employers will have a new statutory duty to return injured workers to their pre-injury work or alternative work of equal value and pay, in addition to the duty to accommodate returning workers to the point of undue hardship, if they employ more than 20 workers. The WCA Amendments also create a new mutual duty for all employers and injured workers to cooperate with one another to support the worker’s return to employment. Failing to comply with these new statutory duties may result in administrative penalties to employers.
WorkSafeBC is currently developing policies setting out how these provisions are interpreted and applied, and will be engaging in consultation with stakeholders in July and August to gather feedback.
As such, employers can play a direct role in shaping WorkSafeBC’s interpretation of the new return-to-work provisions. Employers can participate in the consultation process and provide insight on how these new provisions should be applied, and to voice any concerns they may have about their interpretation. Some of the preliminary questions we have contemplated in respect of the new return-to-work requirements include:
- What constitutes reasonable communication on return to work? Daily telephone calls, weekly check-ins, monthly communications?
- Is the duty to cooperate effected by long health care delays? For instance, if a worker’s next appointment with their physician is a month out and a return to work assessment cannot be done until that time, are the parties expected to continue to communicate regularly and take steps to bring the worker back to work?
- Who does a worker or employer contact if the other party is not meeting their duty to cooperate and communicate? If WorkSafeBC Case Managers are to be involved, will there be minimum timelines for them to answer your inquiry?
- If a worker is ready to return to work but there are no available positions that are comparable to the worker’s pre-injury work and wages, what are the employer’s options to ensure it complies with its statutory duty to maintain the worker’s employment?
Lawson Lundell is available to assist employers in drafting submissions to provide to WorkSafeBC which accurately capture their concerns. We will be sure to provide an update to this blog post once WorkSafeBC has released its interpretation policies.
If you have any questions about the WCA Amendments or how they may affect your workplace, please contact Michelle Jones, Miny Atwal, or another member of Lawson Lundell’s Occupational Health and Safety Group.
Michelle’s practice focuses on compliance, primarily in the area of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). She advises clients on their regulatory obligations and represents them in related administrative and litigation ...
Miny is an associate in the Labour, Employment and Human Rights Group in Vancouver. She practices in all aspects of workplace law including employment standards complaints, human rights issues, labour grievances, workplace ...
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