B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

The B.C. government is pushing ahead with changes to increase insurable earnings under WorkSafeBC rules, and to give the insurer the ability to accept COVID-19 and other viral ailments as work-related without the current 90-day waiting period and investigation.

Labour Minister Harry Bains introduced amendments in the B.C. legislature July 14, emphasizing an increase in maximum disability benefits from $87,000 to $100,000, and authorizing WorkSafeBC to provide preventive medical treatment before a claim is accepted.

Changes to the Workers Compensation Act would also affect the rules for COVID-19 and other viral illness claims, which WorkSafeBC is already reviewing by the hundreds. Between 50 and 60 per cent of those claims are being accepted, Bains said.

A labour ministry statement on the changes puts it this way: “The legislation will fast-track the effective date of presumptions if established by WorkSafeBC board of directors for occupational diseases caused by viral pathogens. The presumption would simplify the process for workers who make a workers’ compensation claim if they contract viruses on the job. This would ensure that people who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 at work are able to access benefits more quickly.”

Employers have strongly opposed the change in “presumptions” that a coronavirus infection came from exposure at work. In a submission to WorkSafeBC, the Employers’ Forum argues that a better remedy is the national sick pay program proposed by Premier John Horgan and other premiers to deal with work lost due to pandemic rules and effects.

“Insufficient scientific information and the nature of this pandemic means the workers’ compensation system can only effectively address claims on a case-by-case basis, much as public health officials are currently doing win the contact tracing process,” the organization representing large and small employers said in its submission. “This pandemic – like all pandemics – is a public health crisis, not a workplace health crisis.

2019: Employer group drops out of WorkSafeBC review in protest

2017: B.C. Liberals promise to cap WorkSafeBC surplus premiums

“Embedding public health costs in WorkSafeBC premiums could be ruinous for businesses who are unable to absorb any further fixed or variable cost increases because of the ongoing fallout from COVID-19, and could undermine the long-term financial stability of WorkSafeBC.”

Bains said the increase in insurable earnings represents a cost to employers, who fund the no-fault compensation system through payroll assessments. The government’s planned changes allow for “stability in premiums” for this year and the next two, Bains said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Three men face attempted murder charges after Harrison Hot Springs stabbing

Man, 24, sent to hospital with life-threatening injuries following attack Wednesday

Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Mischief and break-and-enter charges laid for incidents on four separate days prior to the protest

Delays expected eastbound on Highway 1 near Herrling Island after vehicle incident

Drive BC says their crews, and Emil Anderson Maintenance, are en route to the scene

Chilliwack children can get tested locally, Fraser Health confirms

Erroneous information online and via 811 has many families driving to Abbotsford for testing

Highway 3 open after five hour closure west of Princeton

Vehicle incident 39 kilometres west of Princeton had highway closed most of Thursday

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Wrong-way driver triggers multi-vehicle collision on Highway 99 in South Surrey

Police received multiple reports of vehicle heading north in southbound lanes

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Most Read