Proposed changes to labour laws would increase workers' compensation limits, make COVID-19 claims easier
Minister says changes could raise employers' premiums in a few years
The B.C. government is proposing changes to provincial labour law that it says will increase WorkSafeBC's powers and the amount of compensation workers can receive.
If approved, the amendments to the Workers Compensation Act tabled Tuesday would raise the maximum salary on which workers compensation benefits are based to $100,000 from $87,000.
The amendments would also allow WorkSafeBC to authorize preventive medical treatments before a claim is accepted, allow courts to issue WorkSafeBC search and seizure warrants "appropriate for investigating workplace safety infractions" and allow victim impact statements in "serious" workplace prosecutions and trials.
"The Worker's Compensation Act was failing some workers. For them, it has become a hindrance," Labour Minister Harry Bains said at a press conference.
"People rely on worker's compensation during incredibly difficult times of their lives. Bringing forward this amendment further supports workers so government programs can ease the burden of workplace injury."
Increasing the maximum salary amount to $100,000 is part of an effort to protect the full annual earnings of 90 per cent of B.C. workers, Bains said.
As well, the legislation will help workers who develop occupational diseases caused by viral pathogens, Bains said. That means if someone catches COVID-19 at work, they will be able to access benefits faster, he said.
Bains said the amendments are based on several expert reports and a series of consultations.
Most of the amendments have no cost, Bains said, and could lead to cost savings.
But some areas will have "very small costs," he added, like increasing the amount of salary coverage. He said it could increase employers' WorkSafeBC premiums by about 1.4 cents for every $100 of payroll.
There is a surplus in the agency's accident fund, however, and it projects that surplus could prevent premiums rising for at least the next year or two.
During the pandemic, he noted, employers are able to defer their premiums for six months.