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Workers’ Compensation changes on the horizon?

In 2003 the provincial government made changes to the Workers Compensation Act which resulted in diminished compensation to workers.  Those changes included the elimination of lifetime disability pensions based on actual loss of earnings with reduced pensions based on outdated disability charts that end at age 65, the virtual elimination of the WCB’s vocational rehabilitation program that used to help injured workers return safely to the workplace, the replacement of three levels of external appeal with one internal WCB review and one external appeal, and a worsening “culture of denial” throughout the adjudicative and appellate processes. The direct impact on BCTF members includes the following:

  • increased costs to the BCTF’s Health and Wellness plan in providing the services of occupational therapists and rehabilitation consultants to members to ensure a safe return to the workplace
  • increased costs to the BCTF’s Salary Indemnity plan to cover a worker’s gradual return to the workplace
  • members working even though they have not fully recovered from their injuries
  • members using more of their sick leave to “top-up” their salary because of lower WCB wage loss benefits
  • members using their sick leave instead of filing a claim because they do not want to deal with the WCB process

Board of Directors Launch Policy Review in 2018

In January, 2018, the WorkSafeBC Board of Directors retained Paul Petrie to review the Rehabilitation and Claims Services Manual (RSCM) the binding set of policy which inform compensation decisions. The purpose of the review was to determine whether any policies could be amended to ensure a worker-centred approach wherever practical. Over a six-week period, Mr. Petrie consulted with worker and employer stakeholders and WorkSafeBC staff. His report, “Restoring the Balance – A Worker-Centred Approach to Workers’ Compensation Policy”, contains 41 recommendations.

Some key recommendations from the report include:

  • Establishing an independent medical exam process to assist in resolving medical disputes
  • Study the presence and prevalence of claim suppression in the workers’ compensation system
  • Improving the adjudication process for activity-related soft tissue disorder claims, such as hand/wrist tendinopathy
  • Amending definitions under the mental disorder policy to remove the requirement that traumatic events or work-related stressors be unusual and to include a subjective element to the definitions, to improve rates of claim acceptance
  • Implement a policy for responsible use of video surveillance to meet Board responsibilities without causing unintended harm to the worker

Workers’ Compensation System Review Underway in 2019

An independent review is underway to advise government on how to shift the workers’ compensation system to become more worker-centred. The review is being led by retired labour lawyer Janet Patterson, who was appointed by the BC Government’s Ministry of Labour in April 2019.

The review will assess:

  • the system’s policies and practices that support injured workers’ return to work;
  • WorkSafeBC’s current policies and practices through a gender- and diversity-based analysis (commonly referred to as GBA +);
  • modernization of WorkSafeBC’s culture to reflect a worker-centric service delivery model;
  • the case management of injured workers; and
  • any potential amendments to the Workers Compensation Act arising from this focused review.

People are invited to share their views by email or mail on ways to improve the workers’ compensation system for the people who use, access or work within it.

The independent reviewer will hear from people from all over B.C., including injured workers, employers, representatives, medical practitioners, Indigenous people and First Nations, and the legal community.

Janet Patterson’s report is expected to be released in September, 2019.

 

Luke Olver
Assistant Director—WCB Advocacy
Income Security Division
British Columbia Teachers' Federation
ph. 604-871-1890, fax. 604-871-2285, lolver@bctf.ca Toll free: 1-800-663-9163, local 1890

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