Workers: Duty to cooperate and duty to maintain employment

There are many benefits to returning to work as soon as it is safe to do so after an injury. When workers perform some duties while they recover, it 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.

Return-to-work information for workers

Learn about the steps you can take to return to work and help your recovery after an injury. Read more.

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 workers?

Workers and employers have mutual obligations under the duty to cooperate. The worker must maintain open lines of communication both with the employer and with WorkSafeBC.

The worker must also work with the employer to identify suitable modified job duties. If the worker can no longer perform their pre-injury job, but is otherwise fit to work in another capacity, they must not unreasonably refuse suitable work when it has been made available by any employer.

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.

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 a worker isn’t taking steps to comply with their obligations or address an issue they are facing, we’ll contact them to learn more, discuss the issues and potential barriers to cooperation, and offer our support.

In rare cases, further escalation may be required, as laid out in the legislation. If a worker remains non-compliant, we may reduce or suspend compensation payments.

Were workers consulted about these new duties?

We conducted a public consultation to hear input from workers and employers 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 a worker, see the following resources from our November 29 info session:

You can also review our Worker fact sheet on the duty to cooperate.

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.

How can I learn more about return to work?

See Workers: Return-to-work information.