Employers: Duty to cooperate and duty to maintain employment
Supporting injured workers in their recovery at work is good for employers and their businesses. Having workers perform some duties while they recover keeps them connected to their workplace and can minimize the disruptive impact of workplace injuries. Returning to work helps workers avoid other health complications and protects their income, employment benefits, social contacts, regular routines, and job security.
Introduced as part of the B.C. government’s Bill 41, effective January 1, 2024, employers and workers have a legal duty to cooperate in timely and safe return to work, and certain employers are required to maintain employment with their injured workers in specific circumstances.
The duty to cooperate creates obligations for workers and employers to cooperate with each other, and with WorkSafeBC, to identify and make suitable work available to workers in a timely and safe manner following an injury.
The duty to maintain employment applies only to some employers. If an employer regularly employs 20 or more workers and has employed the injured worker for at least one year before their injury, the employer has an obligation to maintain that worker’s employment.
Are the changes retroactive?
The provisions apply to claims with injury dates before January 1, 2024, in certain circumstances.
The duty to cooperate applies to claims with injury dates up to two years before the January 1 effective date, while the duty to maintain employment provision applies to claims with injury dates up to six months before the effective date.
What does it mean for employers?
Workers and employers have mutual obligations under the duty to cooperate. Employers and workers are required to cooperate by contacting each other and maintaining communication, identifying suitable work for the worker, providing WorkSafeBC with information required to support return-to-work efforts, and doing other related tasks WorkSafeBC may require.
Under the amendment, an employer who regularly employs 20 or more people and has employed the injured worker for at least one year before their injury has an obligation to maintain that worker’s employment.
If a worker is fit to return to their pre-injury work, the employer is required to offer either that pre-injury work or a comparable alternative.
If the worker cannot perform their pre-injury job, but is otherwise fit to work in another capacity, the employer is required to offer the first suitable work that becomes available. The legislation also requires employers to make any changes necessary to the work or workplace to accommodate an injured worker, unless the changes create an undue hardship for the employer.
Support and compliance
Many employers recognize the importance of return to work and are already engaged in effective practices. The legislation formalizes these obligations, reinforces the value of return to work, and promotes positive outcomes for workers.
If an employer isn’t taking steps to comply with their obligations or address an issue, we’ll contact them to learn more, discuss the issues and potential barriers to cooperation, and offer our support.
In rare cases, further escalation or penalties may be required, as laid out in the legislation. If an employer remains non-compliant, WorkSafeBC may apply an administrative penalty based on the amount of the wage-loss or other benefits being paid to the worker.
Were employers consulted about these new duties?
We conducted a public consultation to hear input from employers and workers on four new policies to support the new duties. The consultation closed on September 1, 2023.
How can I learn more?
To learn more about what the new obligations mean for you as an employer, see the following resources from our November 16 info session:
- Read questions and answers from the session
- View the presentation slides
- Watch a video of the session:
You can also review these employer fact sheets:
For more information on Bill 41, see: Bill 41: Amendments to the Workers Compensation Act.
If you have a question about the new obligations, you can submit it on our Email us page. Select “Duty to cooperate and Duty to maintain employment” and follow the prompts to submit your question, and we will respond to you as soon as possible.