B.C.’s labour minister says workers compensation laws are being enhanced to support workers while improving WorkSafeBC's ability to investigate workplace incidents without boosting premiums.
Harry Bains said injured workers have complained for too long that the system lacks fairness and support in times of injury and recovery.
Changes Bains proposes include raising the maximum annual salary on which compensation benefits are based; authorizing WorkSafeBC to provide preventative medical treatment before claim acceptance; giving powers to the court to issue WorkSafeBC search and seizure warrants appropriate for investigating workplace safety infractions; and giving people a voice in serious workplace prosecutions and trials by using victim impact statements.
Victoria is also fast-tracking legislation to handle situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic so workers can access benefits more easily.
During the pandemic, the regulator is allowing businesses to defer paying their premiums for six months without penalty or interest. It is also waiving premiums on wages paid to workers of employers receiving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy.
The amendments to the Workers Compensation Act comes after three expert reviews were completed in 2018 and 2019.
The ministry said of the more than 44,000 injured workers currently receiving permanent disability benefits because of a work-related injury, about 35% are in the Lower Mainland, while the rest are spread throughout all regions of B.C.
There are more than 100,000 workplace injury or fatality claims annually.
In 2019, there were 140 workplace fatalities in B.C. Of that number, 84 were due to occupational disease, 40 to traumatic injury and 16 the result of a motor vehicle incident.