Introduction to Workers' Compensation (7:I)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on June 30, 2021.

This chapter covers basic legislation, policy and procedures associated with administrative proceedings under the Workers’ Compensation Act, RSBC 2019, c 1 [WCA]. The WCA replaced the former Workers’ Compensation Act, RSBC 1996, c 492 (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.

The WCA is a provincial statute creating a regulatory body called the Workers’ Compensation Board (Act, s. 318 [Former Act, s. 81]). Since 2003, Workers’ Compensation Board does business under the name of “WorkSafeBC” and is referred to as “the Board” or WCB in this section. The Board has exclusive jurisdiction over compensation to injured workers for workplace injuries, amongst other duties.

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.[1] 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 pension for a disability. In return, workers give up their right to legal action against their employer for work-related injuries and occupational diseases (WCA s 127; [Former Act, s. 10(1)] 10(1)). 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. It also provides coverage regardless of fault.

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 2 [Former Act, Part 3] of the WCA and in the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation, BC Reg 296/97 (the “OH&S 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[edit]

This section provides information to workers and their representatives on the overall structure and basic procedures of the Board and its appeal body, the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal (the “WCAT”). It is intended to assist in working on cases and appeals arising from Board decisions made under the WCA. The vast majority of these cases involve Board decisions denying injured and disabled workers particular compensation benefits. This is not surprising given that Board policies are often complex 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 Board cases. Assessment and Occupational Health & Safety issues are addressed briefly at the end of the chapter. The Appendices provide information for referrals, community resources, and helpful links for finding law and policy. In particular, the WCA requires the Board, through its Accident Fund, to support the Employer’s Advisors Office and the Worker’s Advisors Office, which 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.

© Copyright 2021, The Greater Vancouver Law Students' Legal Advice Society.