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Information for workers

During the COVID-19 outbreak, we will do our best to help when someone suffers a work-related injury or disease. Having a work-related injury or disease can be stressful at the best of times, but during this period of uncertainty caused by COVID-19, we want to make sure workers understand the support you can continue to access from us and what to do if you think you have a work-related case of COVID-19.

Please note that our staff may be contacting you from a private phone number during this public health emergency. If your phone is set up to block calls from private or anonymous numbers, you may miss their call. Please consider changing your phone settings temporarily in order to receive service.

Helping you

Workers with an existing claim

We are continuing to pay wage-loss and pension benefits as scheduled.

You can submit health care expense reimbursements to us through our online services portal.

If your workplace shuts down temporarily while you are on modified duties or a graduated return to work, you will receive wage-loss benefits from WorkSafeBC for the duration of your scheduled graduated return-to-work plan and/or the period of time that you are unable to work due to your injury. Please refer to our COVID-19 claims FAQs below for more detailed information.

You will continue to receive important information about your claim, including benefit and treatment plan updates. If you have any questions, please contact the claims officer who is handling your claim, or our Claims Call Centre if you don't have an officer's contact info, for assistance.

Workers looking to file a new claim

Workers can continue to report a workplace injury or disease during this time, and can do so online or by phone. We will continue to register, adjudicate, and make payments on new time-lost claims.

If you’ve had a work-related exposure to COVID-19, please refer to our COVID-19 claims FAQs below, which includes information on when you should report an illness to WorkSafeBC.

If you are worker who is submitting a claim for a COVID-19 virus infection contracted through a work-related exposure, you can file a claim as you would with any other workplace injury or disease. See How workers report a workplace injury or disease.

Reaching us

We are preparing contingency plans to ensure we can continue to deliver essential services to workers and employers if the situation escalates, while supporting the direction of public health agencies to slow the progression of COVID-19 through physical distancing practices.

Workers who have filed a claim can use our online services to manage their claim. If you still have questions after viewing your claim online, please call your claims officer. Your officer will return your call as soon as possible.

Workers can also contact our Claims Call Centre if they don't have a claims officer's contact info or need assistance with receiving their payments through direct deposit.

Submitting and managing reviews

If you disagree with a decision made by WorkSafeBC on a claim, assessment, or health and safety enforcement matter, you can request a review of the decision from the Review Division. We are continuing to receive requests for review and are completing as many decisions as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more about Submitting and managing reviews during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Guiding principles for adjudication

We are actively monitoring and adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic to determine how we can best support workers, employers, and providers around the province, as well as our staff.

To ensure we do this, we are following these guiding principles from our Executive Leadership Team:

  • Our staff will continue to support the rehabilitation of injured workers toward safe, successful, and durable return to work at the earliest opportunity, and pursue available alternate treatment options.
  • Our staff will adjudicate claims within existing law and policy and make decisions based on the best evidence available.
  • To the greatest extent possible, workers will not be penalized for situations beyond their control.
  • To the greatest extent possible, individual employers will not have to bear costs for situations beyond their control.
  • We will continue to adjust our operations as the COVID-19 situation unfolds.

COVID-19 claims FAQs

The following FAQs will help you determine what should be reported. New questions added on May 19 are marked with an asterisk (*).

When could COVID-19 be work related?

When a worker contracts COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment, they are entitled to compensation if the following conditions are met:

  1. Evidence that the worker has contracted COVID-19, either:
    • a medical diagnosis in a medical report, or
    • non-medical factual evidence where other evidence establishes the existence of COVID-19.
  2. The nature of the worker’s employment created a risk of contracting the disease significantly greater than the ordinary exposure risk of the public at large.
Work-related example Acute care hospital worker, who is treating patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. In these cases, they are at greater risk than the general public of contracting the disease.

Claims submitted for COVID-19 contracted through a work-related exposure are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. WorkSafeBC will look at details such as whether the worker has a diagnosis of COVID-19, their symptoms, and their employment activities.

If you believe you contracted COVID-19 while at work, you may file a claim to determine if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

When do I report a case of COVID-19 to WorkSafeBC?

Report it if it meets the criteria. As shown in the example, if you are at significantly greater risk than the general public of contracting the virus while at work, and you lose time from work after contracting the virus, report the claim to WorkSafeBC.

However, if you are not at greater risk than the general public of contracting the infection, do not report.

What happens if I was performing modified duties or a graduated return-to-work and my employer shuts down due to COVID-19?

You will be paid during the shutdown. You won’t sustain any loss of benefits due to work disruptions. If your employer does not pay you during the shutdown, WorkSafeBC will provide you wage-loss benefits for the duration of your scheduled graduated return-to-work plan and/or the period of time that you are unable to work due to your injury.

Does WorkSafeBC cover people for a quarantine or self-isolation period?

No. WorkSafeBC does not provide coverage for people who are symptom free even when quarantined, self-isolating or sent home on a precautionary basis.

*I am receiving wage-loss benefits from WorkSafeBC and have been laid off by my employer. Will I continue to receive benefits?

Yes. Your entitlement to wage-loss benefits continues as long as you remain unable to work owing to your injury. Wage-loss benefits end when you no longer have a disability or the disability is deemed permanent, in which case you would be assessed for permanent disability benefits.

*I have received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and/or the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers. Will they be factored into my average earnings or deducted from my wage-loss benefits?

No. The CERB and B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers are benefits, not earnings. These financial benefits are not being provided as payment for labour or services provided, and are not considered employment earnings for WorkSafeBC purposes.

If, during the COVID-19 pandemic, your employment has been significantly disrupted by a closure or your usual earnings have been reduced, WorkSafeBC will consider excluding those time periods when calculating short-term and long-term average earnings on future claims.

*I’m currently looking for work. How do I submit information related to my job search when I’m unable to meet with employers in person or leave my home?

Please keep written records of your job-search activities. Our vocational rehabilitation staff remain available to support you and take information by phone, or you can forward your records to your vocational rehabilitation consultant when possible, by fax, mail, or email (if you have provided us with consent).

*I am physically able to return to work but am concerned about risk of exposure to COVID-19 at my workplace. Can I stay on wage-loss benefits?

No. While it’s natural to be concerned about the risks of exposure, a generalized concern is not a sufficient reason not to return to work. We encourage you to speak to your employer to find out what measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of transmission.

If you are in a high-risk category owing to age or an underlying health condition, it may be possible for your employer to accommodate your concerns. If you still have health and safety concerns that you feel are not being adequately addressed by your employer, we suggest you call our Prevention Information Line, toll-free, at 1.888.621.7233.

*Can I communicate with my WorkSafeBC officer using email?

You will be given the option to use email during the claims process to share information such as completed forms and return-to-work plans, and asked for your written consent.

When providing that consent, you can indicate if you are also consenting to WorkSafeBC emailing personal information to your authorized representative, employer(s) or their authorized representative, and service provider (e.g., physiotherapist, training program).

This consent, and all communications via email, will be recorded and captured.

If you would like to use email to communicate with WorkSafeBC, but haven’t been given the option yet, please call your WorkSafeBC officer to discuss.

COVID-19 health care and treatment FAQs

How can I access doctors and health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The provincial health officer has advised health care professionals to minimize direct physical contact where possible and to provide care to patients via telephone and video technology where appropriate.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, WorkSafeBC will consider medical reports involving telephone and video services when making decisions on an injured worker’s claim benefits.

Most clinics now offer care from your doctor and clinic care providers by telephone or video, which you can access through your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This allows you to get care while maintaining physical distancing or in self-isolation or quarantine. After your video or phone assessment, if you need to be seen in person, the provider may make arrangements to do so safely.

To sign up for a video or telephone appointment, please contact your local health care provider and explore if they can provide clinical services remotely by telephone or video. If you need to come into an office to be seen, check the provider’s website for instructions. If they do not have a website, call the provider as there might be a message advising how to secure a phone or video appointment.

Before your appointment, please access the Doctors of B.C.’s FAQs and tips on preparing to use video or telephone for clinic visits (this link will take you to an M-Files page to download the PDF).

What if I don’t have access to Telehealth and cannot see my doctor? Will my benefits end?

WorkSafeBC is responsible for gathering the necessary information to support decisions on claim benefits. WorkSafeBC considers the individual circumstances of each case to determine if there is sufficient evidence when making these decisions. In all cases, decisions will be made based on the best evidence available.

WorkSafeBC considers medical and non-medical evidence when making decisions on claim benefits. While the best evidence of disability is usually medical evidence, on some occasions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, evidence from the worker, employer, and other sources may be sufficient to establish existence and continuation of disability.

If you had difficulty accessing medical care and have questions about your claim benefits, please contact the officer handling your claim, or our Claims Call Centre if you don’t have an officer’s contact info.

What if my health care or treatment provider is temporarily closed and not able to provide treatment? Will this affect my benefits?

If you remain temporarily disabled, WorkSafeBC will continue to pay your wage-loss benefits, even if you are not able to attend a program with your treatment provider. Please discuss with your claims officer, as alternate means to achieve your treatment goals may be available (e.g., telephone or video conference, activity/home exercise prescription forms).

I’m in a treatment program and can’t attend because either I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or am self-isolating due to potential exposure. What should I do?

If you are an injured worker participating in a treatment program, please be assured that the health care providers we partner with are taking appropriate precautions under the direction of the public health officials.

Do not attend if you are ill with a cold, flu, or fever; are at high risk of contracting COVID-19; or have recently travelled outside of the country.

If you are not comfortable attending or travelling to treatment because of concerns about your ability to maintain appropriate physical distancing, you are not required to attend. Please discuss with your claims officer or our Claims Call Centre if you don't have an officer's contact info.

How do I fill my prescriptions? Can new prescriptions be provided during virtual care visits?

Commonly prescribed medications may be provided digitally at the doctor’s discretion. However, controlled medications like opiates and stimulants are typically not provided virtually. Prescriptions may be sent directly to a specific pharmacy for pick up.

Can existing refills be provided during virtual care visits?

The provincial health officer has announced that patients are able to obtain refills of their regular prescriptions at pharmacies to reduce non-essential physician visits and build capacity for doctors to treat COVID-19 cases.

This means patients who require a refill of their regular medications do not need to visit a doctor or nurse practitioner for an updated prescription. Instead, a pharmacist can provide patients with a refill or emergency supply of their medications.

In all cases, please practice physical distancing while in a pharmacy or when receiving a delivery of medications. Do not visit a pharmacy in-person if you are experiencing symptoms or are self-isolating. Tell your pharmacy if you are experiencing symptoms or are self-isolating and require medications to be delivered to you.

*My surgery, which is necessary to my return to work, was postponed owing to COVID-19. Will my benefits continue?

Yes. When a surgery that is expected to assist in your return to work is postponed owing to the pandemic, your benefits will continue. In certain circumstances, if you are able to return to work in some measure in a different role, WorkSafeBC may support you in finding suitable employment opportunities.

What if I have a fever or a new cough, flu, or cold-like symptoms?

Please do not walk-in to the clinic. Instead book an online telephone or video appointment, or call the provider, who will book one for you.

If your symptoms are moderately severe or you have previous medical conditions, call 811 or please go directly to your closest hospital emergency room.

For more information please consult the BC Centre for Disease Control website.

If you think you may have symptoms of COVID-19, please refer to the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool.

Non-medical information about COVID-19 is available 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1-888-COVID19.