Updates to Workers Compensation Act Take Effect in BC

In November of last year, the BC Government’s Bill 41, Workers Compensation Amendment Act (No. 2), 2022, received Royal Assent, paving the way for substantive changes to the Worker’s Compensation regime in the province. Some parts of the bill came into effect already with Royal Assent, while others are set to be introduced during the course of 2023.

There are a number of significant changes stemming from the amendment but below we have highlighted those most likely to have an immediate impact on employers:


Duty to Maintain Employment

Bill 41 creates a new set of duties with respect to re-employment after a work-related injury, and sets the stage for potentially complex analysis and navigation for many employers, specifically when it comes to intersecting obligations under other legal regimes. These new duties are the most noteworthy amendments stemming from Bill 41 and the most likely to impact British Columbia employers.

Under the new legislation, most workers with 12 months of continuous service and who have been unable to work as a result of a work-related accident, will be entitled to reinstatement once the worker is fit to return to work. Reinstatement is generally to the worker’s pre-injury work but, depending on the specific circumstances, may also be to comparable work or the first position available for which the worker is fit to perform the work duties.

This duty applies to employers that regularly employ at least 20 workers and continues until the second anniversary of the date the worker is injured if the workers has not returned to work by that date, or the date the worker is carrying out suitable work.

Employers will be obligated to make changes to any work or workplace to accommodate a returning worker, up to the point of undue hardship. A claim of undue hardship, however, will be difficult to make out and is largely driven by the essential duties of the pre-injury work, as well as available alternatives to the pre-injury work.

Failure to comply with the above duty may result in a complaint to WorkSafeBC. If an employer is found to have breached their duties, this may attract administrative penalties, up to a maximum prescribed wage rate, which in 2022 was set at $108,354.

These new obligations will be in addition to any existing obligations under employment standards and human rights legislation, the common law, and any employment contract or collective bargaining agreement. With so many potential obligations in play, employers may struggle to know which applies in which situations, which supersede and who ultimately has ruling authority.

More guidance from WorkSafeBC will ultimately be required to answer these questions. However, the workers’ compensation regimes of other provinces (Ontario, for example) contain similar provisions so employers may be able to draw some insights from the interpretation of those provisions and the jurisprudence considering same.

This portion of Bill 41 is not yet in force and no in-force date has yet been determined.


Employers Face Increased Termination Obligations


Duty to Co-operate

Employers (and injured workers) will also be obligated to co-operate with each other and with WorkSafeBC to support the return of the worker to their pre-injury employment or, where not possible, to other suitable work.

This duty includes:

  • maintaining communication with the off-work worker;
  • where necessary, identifying other suitable work that would allow the worker to return to earning their pre-injury wages; and
  • apprising WorkSafeBC of the worker’s return to work or continuation of work.

Either party may request that WorkSafeBC investigate allegations of non-compliance and impose remedies if such non-compliance is found.

This portion of Bill 41 is not yet in force and no in-force date has yet been determined.


Explicit Penalties for Suppression

Bill 41 also seeks to reduce/eliminate the suppression of workers’ compensation claims by employers. The prior legislation prohibited employers from discouraging workers from reporting injuries to WorkSafeBC and made any agreement to waive workers’ compensation benefits presumptively void.

The new legislation further strengthens anti-claim suppression efforts, prohibiting employers or supervisors from discouraging, impeding or dissuading a worker from making or maintaining a workers’ compensation claim, or receiving compensation for such claims.

This portion of Bill 41 went into force on November 24, 2022.


Creation of Fair Practices Commissioner

Bill 41 also establishes a Fair Practices Commissioner to be appointed by WorkSafeBC. The Commissioner will investigate complaints by either workers or employers of alleged unfairness in dealings with WorkSafeBC, and will recommend changes and improvements to WorkSafeBC.

This portion of Bill 41 goes into force on May 1, 2023.



The changes stemming from Bill 41 may force some employers to carefully consider their current policies and procedures in regards to workplace injuries and employees’ subsequent return to work.

While most employers likely have accommodation and RTW practices in place (particularly those with a greater risk profile in terms of workplace injury), it is advisable that they have been updated to reflect new requirements. Whether your workplace has a number of workers on medical leave or you have never experienced a single workplace injury, the new year is an excellent time to put your processes under the microscope, particularly in light of the significant penalties that could result from non-compliance.

Concerned about how Bill 41’s changes impact your BC business? Reach out to Matthew E. McCarthy in our Employment Group for advice on navigating the new Workers Compensation Act requirements.