Governing Legislation, Policy and Guidelines for Workers' Compensation (7:II)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 1, 2023.|
The WCA is the legislation which creates and governs the Board. As set out above, the WCA replaced the Former Act on April 6, 2020. While there was no substantive change encompassed in this act revision, the section numbers of the WCA have changed significantly. As such, this chapter will refer to the section numbers of the current WCA as well as the section numbers from the Former Act. [A table of concordance is available here. Note that this table refers to sections of the current WCA as they were at the time that the current WCA was passed. Future amendments may render this table inaccurate.]
There are several regulations passed under the WCA, the most important being the OHSR.
In 2004, the Administrative Tribunals Act, SBC 2004, c 45 (the “ATA”) came into effect. The ATA applies to any administrative tribunals in BC that adopt the ATA (or sections thereof) in their legislation. Under the WCA, certain sections of the ATA apply to WCAT including certain procedural requirements, and a 60-day time limit for filing for judicial review from a WCAT decision. The ATA does not apply to Claims or Review Division decisions.
Citations for the WCA, key amendments, and other relevant legislation are attached in the Appendix.
B. Binding Policy
The WCA sections 303 and 339 [Former Act, ss. 250 and 99] make Board policy binding on all Board decision-makers and appeal bodies (i.e., the Review Division and WCAT) [Note that WCAT can choose not to apply a Board policy in specific circumstances and following specific procedures. See WCA s. 304 [Former Act, s. 251]]. The courts have determined that the effect of these provisions is to give Board policy a legal status equivalent to subordinate legislation (see below).
The key documents setting out binding Board policy are:
- The statements contained under the heading “Policy” in WorkSafeBC’s Assessment Manual. These policies relate to Part 5: Accident Fund and Employer Assessment of the WCA [Former Act, Division 4];
- The statements contained under the heading “Policy” in WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Manual. These policies relate to Part 2: Occupational Health and Safety of the WCA [Former Act, Part 3]; and
- The Rehabilitation Services & Claims Manual, Volume I and II (the “RSCM I” and the “RSCM II”), other than explanatory material and the headings “Background” and “Practice.” These policies relate to Part 3: Workers’ Compensation System and Part 4: Compensation to Injured Workers and their Dependants of the WCA [Former Act, Part 1].
All legislation and Board policies are available on the Board website.
In practice, Board policy confines, or attempts to confine, the nature of relevant evidence and provides the framework for how evidence is to be assessed and weighed. Therefore, in appeals, it is important to identify the correct applicable Board policy whether or not it is identified in the initial Board decision.
This manual focuses on claims compensation issues. As such, the most important policy documents for the purposes of this manual are the RSCM I and the RSCM II. The current RSCM I and RSCM II are available at www.worksafebc.com under the “Law and Policy” section, followed by the “Compensation Policies” link under “Claims & Rehabilitation.” On the sidebar, there are tabs for both RSCM Volumes I and II. The RSCM I applies to claims initiated before June 30, 2002 and the RSCM II applies to any claims initiated after June 30, 2002.
The RSCM II has eighteen chapters. Each chapter focuses on a particular entitlement issue or benefit and contains the policies relating to that issue. Each policy is numbered and dated and is typically 1–3 pages long. The RSCM II index (also available through the RSCM II link) is very helpful for locating relevant chapters and policies.
Board policies change from time to time. Each new version of a policy is passed by the Board of Directors and is published with both a specific effective date and a determination as to whether or not the changes apply to appeals. This information is set out at the end of each policy. Each new Board policy is incorporated into the electronic version of the RSCM II available on the Board website. When handling an appeal, students should determine the relevant applicable policy (especially for old claims), and should also review the electronic version of newer policy to ensure that it is still current. The Board website also contains all the former or “archived” policy manuals so that any relevant policy is accessible, even for old claims. It is important to ensure you have found the version of an applicable policy as it read at the time a particular decision was made.
If a particular Board decision quotes part of a policy, it is good practice to read the whole policy and surrounding policies to understand the full framework for that type of benefit. Also, although a particular policy may be quoted in a decision, the decision-maker may or may not have applied the correct policy. It is best to assess the worker’s issue and determine whether or not alternative policies may be the correct applicable policies.
Lastly, Board policy must be consistent with the WCA. If someone considers a Board policy to be inconsistent with the WCA, they are entitled to challenge that policy in a WCAT appeal in which it is relevant. If the WCAT panel agrees that the policy is not supported by the WCA, the panel will refer the matter to the WCAT Chair. If the Chair agrees, they will refer the policy to WCB’s Board of Directors for ultimate determination and possible policy change. See section 304 of the WCA [Former Act, s. 251].
C. Binding Policy: Standard of Proof and Evidence
Sections 339 (2) and (3) of the WCA [Former Act, s. 99] require that the Board “make its decision based on the merits and justice of the case, but in doing this the Board must apply the policies of the board of directors that are applicable in that case” and “if the Board is making a decision respecting the compensation or rehabilitation of a worker and the evidence supporting different findings on an issue is evenly weighted in that case, the Board must resolve that issue in a manner that favours the worker.” This means that, in WCB cases, there is a unique standard of proof. Where a case is 50-50, it should be resolved in favour of the worker (an “as likely as not” standard). This is less than the standard of proof used in civil claims. The civil standard is on a balance of probabilities (“more likely than not” or 50% +1).
D. Non-Binding Guidance
Both WCB and WCAT provide useful interpretive guides that combine policy, important decisions, and best practices. WCB issues Practice Directives that advise on many particularly complex issues such as chronic pain, mental disorders, and overpayments. These are accessible through the “Law and Policy” section at www.worksafebc.com under the title “Practice Directives” linked under the “Claims and Rehabilitation” section.
The Review Division Practices and Procedures manual (the “RDPP”) is an important document to review when dealing with a review of a Board decision. While the RDPP is not binding, it outlines standards and practices for the Review Division that may not be obvious on a reading of the relevant sections of the WCA.
WCAT’s guidelines are published in the Manual of Rules, Policy and Procedures (the “MRPP”), available on the WCAT website at www.wcat.bc.ca.
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