Bill 23, which introduces significant changes to the Workers Compensation Act (the "Act"), received royal assent on August 14, 2020. The Act contains 34 provisions including changes relating to compensation, assessment, and occupational health and safety matters. Bill 23 was tabled by Minister of Labour, Harry Bains, on July 14, 2020, and was previously discussed in our July 21,2020, update.
The changes to the Act which take effect immediately, include, but are not limited to the following:
Claims and Assessments
- The immediate provision of preventative health care on pending claims, if medical evidence supports that without such services or supplies, the worker is at risk of a significant deterioration in health.
- A revision to section 151(3) of the Act to add the term "mental disorder" in order to distinguish mental disorders from personal injuries for the purpose of the one-year time limit for filing a compensation claim. This is to recognize the delay or gradual onset of some mental disorders and to prevent barriers from filing these claims.
- WorkSafeBC's reconsideration powers have been changed to allow WorkSafeBC to reconsider a decision after 75 days have elapsed, if the decision contains an obvious error or omission.
- The 90-day waiting period regarding the effective date of the presumption relating to infections caused by communicable viral pathogens, including COVID-19, has been removed. This is intended to fast track COVID-19 claims.
Debts and Directors' Liability
- WorkSafeBC can now demand that a third party who is indebted (or is likely to become indebted) to an employer that owes monies to WorkSafeBC pay all or part of that debt directly to WorkSafeBC.
- Directors of a corporation at the time a debt to WorkSafeBC is accrued are now jointly and severally liable with that corporation for the debt.
Investigations and Prosecutions
- Provides WorkSafeBC with search and seizure powers through warrants issued by a judge for workplace investigations through the Act (previously through the Offence Act). Under the new provision, the Court may issue warrants to WorkSafeBC where there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence against the Act has been or is being committed.
- The removal of the requirement that WorkSafeBC's Board must approve the laying of an information in respect of an offence under the Act. The laying of an information is the procedural step required to allow a prosecution against an employer to commence.
- Permits the courts to hear victim impact statements as part of the sentencing of employers and supervisors in prosecutions hearings related to offences under the Act.
As of January 1, 2021, the following three provisions will take effect:
- The maximum insurable earnings threshold and maximum wage rate will increase to $100,000 (from $87,100) for 2021.
- Permanent partial disability benefits will be based on the higher of a loss of earnings or loss of function calculation.
- Retirement age for a worker may be determined after a worker has reached age 63.
A backgrounder on the amendments can be found in the Ministry of Labour's press release.
The updates to the Act and their effect on employers will be addressed in detail during the upcoming RG Workplace Law Education series workshop, An Employer's Guide to WorkSafeBC. The October 8, 2020, workshop will be conducted by webinar and will be led by Alissa Demerse and Julia Bell.
Learn more and register for the workshop : https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/an-employers-guide-to-worksafebc-tickets-117583183467
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