New changes to WorkSafe BC in 2020

WCB is getting more expensive.

Along with a list of other business organizations, we wrote to the Minister of Labour to express our concerns over costly changes that were proposed under a series of reviews that were done. In fact - in May, 2019, we wrote to the BC Minister of Labour, Honorable Harry Bains (read the letter here!), voicing our concern about several reviews that were done which clearly lacked objectivity. Again, and again, we tirelessly pressed the Minister to freeze any changes to the system. Despite this, the BC Ministry of Labour decided to introduce these costly changes at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The provincial government passed these changes to WCB in August, 2020, and they will have significant cost implications on the system. 

What are the new changes?

It’s about to get technical. But like you, we value transparency – so if you are interested in what specific changes have been made and what are concerns are, keep reading. 

New change: Adding “presumption for infections caused by communicable viral pathogens” under a BC-specific emergency declaration to the Act

Essentially, WorkSafe BC is including communicable viral pathogens as an employee benefit, when the province is under a state of emergency. For example, this would mean COVID-19 would be a WorkSafe benefit during the provincial state of emergency. 

Our concern: This is an expensive new addition to WorkSafe, and undermines employers by making the assumption that employees who become ill with COVID-19 were infected in the workplace. Other federal programs, like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit were introduced to support employees who were unable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons, including if they fell ill. This new WorkSafe policy duplicates support, is unnecessary, and is likely to drive up the cost of the system if substantial employees take advantage of the benefit. 

New change: Retirement Age 

Currently, the Act requires periodic payments of compensation to cease when the worker reaches age 65 (subject to the Board being satisfied that the worker would retire after the age of 65). The proposed revision will result in deferring the Board’s determination of the worker’s date of retirement until after a worker reaches age 63.

Our concern: How can an injured worker plan for the future when their retirement age may, or may not, change in the future? Are BC employers in 2050 expected to fund injuries that occurred in 2020? This provision creates more – not less – uncertainty. This proposed revision will have a significant impact on both the number of workers who are provided compensation benefits beyond age 65, and the average length of the extension.

New Change: Finality of Adjudicated Decisions

This amendment of the Act will provide the Board with the authority to reconsider a decision, at any time, if the decision contains “an obvious error or omission”.

Our concern: Workers need to know their benefits are secure and not subject to an “obvious” error correction, while employers need certainty to determine costs and not be subject to revisionism.

Where is the surplus, and what are we doing now?

For years, CFIB has asked WorkSafeBC to issue refunds– and for years, the system has been over-funded. In fact, in 2019 the system was over-funded by $7.3 billion of your money. 

Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant change in markets that have no doubt impacted WorkSafe’s investments, the question remains: where is your money now?

Transparency and accountability are invaluable right now. And that’s why we are demanding WorkSafe to:

  1. Be more accountable
  2. Publish an update of their finances and where the surplus is at
  3. Guarantee no rate increases while the economy recovers
  4. Conduct cost analysis of any new programs, and share the analysis publicly 
  5. Introduce a system that issues automatic refunds to employers during years of surplus to WCB