Introduction to Workers' Compensation (7:I)
This chapter covers basic legislation, policy, and procedures associated with appeals under Workers’ Compensation Act, RSBC l996, c 492 [WCA].
The WCA is a provincial statute creating a regulatory body called the Workers Compensation Board of B.C. Since 2003, this body works under the name of “WorkSafe B.C.” and is referred to as “the Board” or WCB in this section. The Board has exclusive jurisdiction over compensation for injured workers for workplace injuries amongst other duties. The Board’s origins are perhaps more interesting than its current form suggests.
Some of the earliest forms of workers' compensation started with pirates in the pre-Revolutionary Americas. A pirate who lost an eye was entitled to 100 pieces of eight, roughly one year's pay. With the industrial revolution, more evolved workers' compensation schemes followed in Europe and eventually spread back to North America where they are now mandatory across Canada and the United States.
Today’s workers’ compensation schemes, including BC’s, are based on the historic trade-off: employers fund a no-fault insurance scheme for injured workers, to compensate them and assist in their medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation (retraining), and in pension for disability. In return, workers give up their right to legal action against their employer for work-related injuries and occupational diseases [WCA s 10]. Ideally, this approach offers several benefits. It takes workplace injury claims out of the courts, reducing clutter for them and cost and delay for the workers. It gives greater certainty of coverage to workers and streamlines the compensation process. Finally, like any insurance scheme, it spreads losses amongst employers and eliminates the concern about ruinous claims. Unfortunately, reality often falls short of these ideals and, especially in light of changes since 2002, injured workers often require help and even representation.
Aside from compensation, The Board's other duties consists of:
Regulation of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S): In BC, the Board is responsible for workplace health and safety regulations, investigations and enforcement as set out in Part III of the WCA and in the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation. While most enforcement orders and penalties are against employers for safety violations, orders may also be issued against workers. Under the WCA, workers are entitled to refuse unsafe work and to be protected from retaliation for reporting unsafe work practices.
Employer Assessments: The WCA grants specific powers to the Board to set rates and collect assessments from employers to create an Accident Fund. The Accident Fund must be sufficient to finance the compensation system and each employer is assessed annually based on a complex formula (see below). The WCA requires the Board to operate a fully funded system.
A. Scope of This Section
This section advises workers and their representatives on the overall structure and basic procedures of the Board and its appeal body, the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal [WCAT]. It is intended to assist in working on cases and appeals arising from Board decisions made under the WCA. The vast majority of appeals involve Board decisions denying injured and disabled workers particular compensation benefits. This is not surprising given that current Board policies are often complex and difficult to understand and that about 100,000 compensation claims are filed by injured workers every year, with about half of these claims involving a serious injury or disability.
Therefore, the primary focus of this material is on Compensation matters which may be at issue in appeals. Assessment and OH&S issues are addressed briefly at the end of the chapter. The Appendices provide information for referrals and community resources, and helpful links for finding law and policy. In particular, the WCA requires the Board, through its Accident Fund, to support the Employers Advisors and Workers Advisors who can provide employers and workers with free legal assistance. However, the extent of the assistance provided by these Advisors changes from time to time and between locations.
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