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

LOOK BACK: Shave and a haircut in 1912

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

ARTS AROUND: Exploring nature with summer art camps

The Rollin Art Centre in Port Alberni is hosting summer art camps for children

Sproat Lake volunteer retires at 94 years old

Joe Van Bergen was a volunteer member on the Advisory Planning Committee for the ACRD for 20 years

Khalsa Aid Canada helps Port Alberni family after house fire

Family of four has been staying at Redford Motel since July 25

Port Alberni firefighters raise $500 for Burn Camp

To date, Port Alberni has raised $13,000 for the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund

Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

Air Canada, WestJet say they provide names and contact information

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Organization says to stop using products listed, and to consult a health-care professional

Airborne hot dog strikes Greater Victoria pedestrian

Police called to 4200-block of Quadra Street for hot dog incident

Most Read