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

LETTER: Revelstoke does not need proposed Hay Rd. development

The development calls for 60 housing units

Which streets in Revelstoke have the most crashes?

The data was recently released by ICBC

LETTER: Kiss the caribou goodbye

Kiss the caribou goodbye Revelstoke! The $1.1 million funding from the B.C.… Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Improving highway safety

Highway 97 has seen plenty of collisions and accidents over the years

Sternwheelers once plied Okanagan Lake

Vessels once transported passengers and goods along the Okanagan Valley

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Passengers escape unharmed from destructive houseboat fire in Shuswap

Cause of blaze on Mara Lake under investigation, flames erupt at 2 a.m. Aug. 4

Alberta vehicles allegedly damaged in Summerland

Lug nuts loosened, windows smashed in several instances in Okanagan community

Interior Health reports nine new cases of COVID-19, 149 linked to Kelowna

Nine new cases were reported in the Interior Health region over the long weekend’s four reporting periods

Former Kelowna resident makes fundraising goal for cancer fertility treatments

Rebecca Hamilton recieved a boost in a battle against cancer - $25,000 for post chemo treatments

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

UPDATE: Water bombers attack wildfire north of Sicamous above Shuswap Lake

Wildfire BC reports fire is still classified out of control, 25 personnel on ground

Most Read