Amendments and revisions to the Act
The Workers Compensation Act (Act) was revised in 2019 as part of the government’s standard legislative revision process. Some language was modernized and parts, divisions, and sections were renumbered, but the revisions did not change the legal effect of the Act with respect to workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety, or employers’ assessment premiums. The revisions came into effect April 6, 2020.
From time to time, the Act is also amended. The most recent legislation to amend the Act was Bill 23, which came into effect on August 14, 2020.
To view information on the revisions, and any other previous amendments to the Act, select a link below.
Overview of the changes
Bill 23, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020 came into force by Royal Assent on August 14, 2020. The legislation amended 34 provisions of the Workers Compensation Act (Act), addressing issues related to:
- Occupational health and safety investigations and convictions;
- Workers’ compensation benefits;
- The powers of WorkSafeBC’s Review Division;
- The powers and obligations of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal; and
- Collecting unpaid assessments.
It also included a number of other minor amendments related to small technical corrections and improvements to the Act.
The goal of the amendments was to improve the workers’ compensation system to better support injured workers and their families. Bill 23 was informed by three expert reviews completed during 2018 and 2019, which were then used by an industry expert to identify potential legislative amendments in a further report, in consultation with employers, labour representatives, and Indigenous organizations.
Thirty-two of the amendments came into force immediately, upon Royal Assent. Two of the amendments come into effect on January 1, 2021:
- Permanent partial disability benefits will be based on the higher of a loss-of-earnings or loss-of-function calculation. The "so exceptional" test will no longer apply.
- Retirement age for a worker may be determined after a worker has reached age 63.
Highlights of the changes that came into effect on August 14, 2020:
- The court may now issue search and seizure warrants to WorkSafeBC where there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence against the Act has been or is being committed.
- The laying of an information in respect of an offence no longer requires approval of WorkSafeBC.
- WorkSafeBC is able to reconsider a decision made under the compensation provisions of the Act after 75 days have elapsed, if the decision contains an obvious error or omission.
- An explicit reference to mental disorders has been added to section 151(3) of the Act, specifically including the “date of mental disorder” as the starting point of the one-year time limit for filing a compensation claim.
- Preventative health care may be provided on pending claims, if medical evidence supports that, without such services or supplies, the worker is at risk of a significant deterioration in health.
- The maximum insurable earnings threshold and maximum wage rate will increase to $100,000 for 2021.
- The 90-day waiting period has been removed for bringing a regulation into effect that creates a presumption of work-relatedness for infections caused by communicable viral pathogens, including COVID-19.
- WorkSafeBC can now demand in writing that a third party who is indebted (or is likely to become indebted) to an employer that owes an amount to WorkSafeBC pay all or part of that debt directly to WorkSafeBC.
- Directors of a corporation at the time a debt to WorkSafeBC is accrued are now jointly and severally liable with that corporation for the debt.
- Requests to the Review Division may now be made on a decision to reopen or not to reopen a matter on an application related to a recurrence of injury or significant change in a compensable medical condition.
August 14, 2020: Bill 23 is given Royal Assent, and 32 of the 34 provisions go into effect immediately.
September 1 to 15, 2020: Public consultation period for amendments that were effective August 14, 2020. (See discussion paper)
October 21, 2020: Updated policy items for amendments that took effect August 14, 2020 were approved by the Board of Directors. (See decision)
November 18, 2020: Policy changes related to permanent partial disability benefits reflecting Bill 23 amendments coming into effect January 1, 2021 were approved by the Board of Directors. (See decision)
December 9, 2020: Policy changes related to retirement age determinations reflecting Bill 23 amendments coming into effect January 1, 2021 were approved by the Board of Directors. (See decision)
January 1, 2021: Final two amendments of Bill 23 take effect.
Updated WorkSafeBC materials
We are updating our key materials to ensure they reflect the revised Act.
Policy manuals and practice directives
Policy manuals will be revised after public consultation to reflect changes in the revised Act. Practice directives have also been revised as a result of these revisions. You can continue to find the most current version of the policies and practice directives here:
Questions and answers
For more detailed information, these resources are available on the provincial government’s web pages:
A revised version of the Workers Compensation Act took effect on April 6, 2020.
The provincial government has reorganized the Act to make laws easier to find and modernized the language so it’s easier to read and understand. The revisions do not change B.C.’s laws concerning workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety, or employers’ assessment premiums.
Overview of the changes
To improve clarity, the revised Act is divided into eight parts. Complex provisions have been split into individual components, creating more sections and subsections.
In some sections, there are minor wording revisions to modernize the language and improve clarity.
Provisions that have been repealed or are no longer needed have been deleted.
|Act in effect prior to April 6, 2020||Act in effect on and after April 6, 2020|
|Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 492||Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 2019, c. 1|
Divided into four parts
Part 1: Compensation to Workers and Dependants
Part 2: Liability of Employers in Industries Not Within the Scope of
Part 3: Occupational Health and Safety
Part 4: Appeals
Divided into eight parts
Part 1: Scope of the Act
Part 2: Occupational Health and Safety
Part 3: Workers’ Compensation System
Part 4: Compensation to Injured Workers and Their Dependants
Part 5: Accident Fund and Employer Assessment
Part 6: Review of Board Decisions
Part 7: Appeals to Appeal Tribunal
Part 8: Workers’ Compensation Board and General Matters
Updated WorkSafeBC materials
We have updated our key materials to ensure they reflect the revised Workers Compensation Act. Historic references to the Act won’t change, but here are some of the main examples of content that has been updated.
Policy Manuals and practice directives
Policy manuals have been revised to reflect changes in the revised Act, and the changes were approved by the Board of Directors to come into effect on April 6, 2020. Practice directives have also been revised as a result of these revisions. You can continue to find the most current version of the policies and practice directives at their current locations:
Searchable OHS Regulation
Most web addresses within worksafebc.com will be unaffected by the revisions, with the exception of the Searchable OHS Regulation & related materials. All Act links within this area of the website will change to reflect the renumbered sections.
We’ve created a resource, Link changes for OHS Provisions of the Workers Compensation Act 2019, to map the URLs for the OHS provisions of the Act before and after the effective date.
Other health & safety resources
Our most-used resources have been updated to reflect the revisions and will continue to stay in the same location on our website.
For more detailed information, these resources are available on the provincial government’s Revision of the Workers Compensation Act web page:
Bill 18, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2019 came into force by Royal Assent on May 16, 2019. Bill 18 amended sections 1, 5.1, and 6.1 of the Workers Compensation Act (Act), to extend the application of the cancer, heart injury, heart disease, and mental disorder presumptions to wildland firefighters, fire investigators, and firefighters working for First Nations or other Indigenous organizations.
To reflect changes to the definition of firefighter in section 1 of the Act, housekeeping amendments were made to:
- Items AP1-1-1, Coverage under Act – Descriptions of Terms; AP1-1-5, Coverage under Act – Workers; and AP1-38-2, Assessable Payroll in the Assessment Manual; and
- policy items #7.10, Coverage for Volunteer Firefighters; and #67.32, Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Drivers and Attendants in the Rehabilitation Services & Claims Manual, Volume II.
Bill 9, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2018 came into force by Royal Assent on May 17, 2018 and added a mental disorder presumption to the Workers Compensation Act (Act) for workers who are or have been employed in an eligible occupation. Eligible occupation is defined in the Act to include the occupation of a correctional officer, emergency medical assistant, firefighter, police officer, sheriff and any other occupation prescribed by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Additionally, Bill 9 revised the definition of firefighter in sections 5.1 and 6.1 of the Act to include firefighters employed by the government of Canada.
To reflect the new mental disorder presumption introduced by Bill 9, WorkSafeBC’s Board of Directors approved amendments to Chapter 3 in the Rehabilitation Services & Claims Manual, Volume II to:
- add Item C3-13.10, Section 5.1(1.1) – Mental Disorder Presumption; and
- revise Item C3-13.00, Section 5.1 – Mental Disorders.
The policy changes took effect on July 23, 2018.
Bill 35, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act (No.2), 2015 received Royal Assent on November 17, 2015 and contains a number of changes to Part 3 of the Workers Compensation Act ("Act").
Bill 35 builds on the legislative changes made under Bill 9 earlier in 2015 that strengthened WorkSafeBC’s ability to promote and enforce occupational health and safety compliance in B.C. workplaces.
Highlights of the Bill 35 changes
The changes introduced by Bill 35, which took effect January 1, 2016, will:
- Require employers to immediately report to WorkSafeBC all workplace fires or explosions that had the potential to cause serious injury to a worker.
- Require employers to provide both preliminary and full employer incident investigation reports to the employer’s joint occupational health and safety committee or worker representative, as applicable, or post these reports at the worksite.
- Specify what the participation of an employer and worker representative in the employer’s investigation of a work-related incident may include (but isn’t limited to).
- Require joint occupational health and safety committees to advise the employer on significant proposed equipment and machinery changes that may affect worker health and safety.
- Allow WorkSafeBC to take a proactive role in assisting committees to resolve disagreements over health and safety matters, even if the committee has not formally reported these matters to WorkSafeBC.
Bill 35 also addresses administrative issues relating to WorkSafeBC’s annual report and service plan and to the WorkSafeBC Superannuation Plan. These changes took effect immediately upon the bill receiving Royal Assent.
For More Information
The following document is a high level summary that provides an introduction and overview of the changes to the Workers Compensation Act:
WorkSafeBC will continue posting additional information, including occupational health and safety policies, guidelines, and other materials here.
Bill 9 the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2015, received Royal Assent on May 14 and contained a number of changes to Part 3 of the Workers Compensation Act (Act).
The goal of the changes was to improve workplace health and safety and strengthen the tools that WorkSafeBC uses to enforce the Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.
The amendments implemented the recommendations from Gordon Macatee’s WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan, released in July 2014, which required legislative change. That plan made a total of 43 recommendations to help ensure that B.C. has a world-class inspection and enforcement regime.
The changes made and the effective dates are in the table below.
|Expanded Stop Work Order Powers
Employer Incident Investigation Changes
Expanded Injunction Powers
Changes to OHS Penalty Due Diligence
|May 14, 2015
|OHS Compliance Agreements
New 45 day Time Period for Prevention Review Requests
New members for BOD
|September 15, 2015
(Effective date of Lower Maximum Administrative Penalties Regulation)
|February 1, 2016
Resources for the legislation
The following documents are provided as high level summaries that provide an introduction and overview of the Bill 9 changes to the Workers Compensation Act:
- Legislative Change: A Primer on Stop Work Orders
- Legislative Change: A Primer on Employer Incident Investigations
- Legislative Change: A Primer on Injunctions and Due Diligence
- Legislative Change: A Primer on Compliance Agreements
- Legislative Change: A Primer on OHS Citations
Bill 17, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2014 received Royal Assent on May 29, 2014 and amended the Workers Compensation Act (“Act”). The amendments provide firefighters with a presumption in favour of coverage for heart disease and heart injury, and added nurse practitioner into the definition of a “qualified practitioner,”.
To reflect the Bill 17 amendments regarding firefighters, WorkSafeBC's Board of Directors rescinded the policy dealing with firefighters and heart injury in the Rehabilitation Services & Claims Manual, Volume II (“RS&CM”). These Act and policy changes provide a presumption in favour of coverage for firefighters and heart disease and heart injury. Both the Act and policy changes took effect May 29, 2014.
To reflect the Bill 17 amendments regarding nurse practitioners, WorkSafeBC's Board of Directors approved revisions to three policies in Chapter 10 of the RS&CM. Under the revised policies, nurse practitioners are recognized as qualified practitioners to provide services to workers as authorized by the Health Professions Act and corresponding regulations and bylaws. Both the Act and policy changes took effect January 1, 2015.
Bill 39, the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act (“EIDA”) was enacted on May 31, 2012.
Under Bill 39, an individual may apply to the Provincial Court for a testing order if he or she has come into contact with a bodily substance of another individual:
- while providing emergency health services;
- while performing his or her duties as a firefighter, emergency medical assistant or peace officer; or
- while involved in a prescribed circumstance or while carrying out a prescribed activity.
The testing order will be undertaken in cases where the source individual does not voluntarily submit to testing. The results of the testing order will determine if the source individual is infected with a pathogen that causes a prescribed communicable disease. The list of “communicable diseases” will be prescribed by regulation under the EIDA by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
Bill 39 also includes consequential amendments to the Workers Compensation Act (“Act”) to establish a presumption of disease exposure for qualified individuals who have obtained a testing order and are seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
Under this amendment, if a worker who has obtained a testing order has contracted a communicable disease, it must be presumed, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that the communicable disease is due to the nature of the worker’s employment, if:
- the worker came into contact with the bodily substance of the source individual in the course of the worker’s employment; and
- the test results obtained under a testing order issued under the EIDA indicate that the source individual is infected with a pathogen that causes the communicable disease contracted by the worker.
Claims for compensation for an infectious agent or disease exposure, including contagious diseases, were previously adjudicated and accepted by WorkSafeBC based on existing legislation and policy. The Bill 39 amendments did not change WorkSafeBC’s previous practice of adjudicating and accepting claims for compensation following exposures to infectious agents or diseases.
The implementation of the EIDA and the consequential amendments to the Act provide a presumption in favour of workers’ compensation coverage for those workers who meet the new legislative requirements.
The Bill 39 amendments came into force by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council on March 2, 2013.
Bill 14, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011 was enacted on May 31, 2012.
Key legislative changes enacted include:
- Compensation for Mental Disorders
- Calculation of Long-term Average Earnings for Apprentices or Learners
- Consumer price index adjustments to the dollar values in the Act.
These legislative changes came into force on July 1, 2012. Highlights of the amendments are as follows:
|Issue||Previous Provision||Amended Provision|
|Compensation for Mental Disorders||A worker may be entitled to compensation only if the mental stress is an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising out of and in the course of employment.||A worker may be entitled to compensation only if the mental disorder:
|Calculation of Long-term Average Earnings for Apprentices or Learners||The long-term average earnings are based on the gross earnings for the 12 month period immediately preceding the date of injury, of a qualified person employed at the starting rate in the same trade, occupation or profession:
(a) by the same employer, or
(b) if no person is so employed, by an employer in the same region.
|The long-term average earnings would be based on the greater of:
(a) by the same employer, or
(b) if no person is so employed, by an employer in the same region
|Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) Adjustments||Dollar values in the Act are updated annually by CPI and the new figures are contained in a Board minute.||Dollar values in the Act are updated annually by CPI and the new figures are contained in a Board minute.|
Bill 16, Family Law Act, received Royal Assent on November 24, 2011 and resulted in a number of consequential amendments to the Workers Compensation Act ("Act"), particularly with respect to compensation in fatal claims.
The key amendments are as follows:
- New definitions of spouse and surviving spouse have been added to section 1;
- The cohabitation requirement for common law spouses to receive compensation upon the death of a worker has been lowered from 3 years to 2 years, where the worker and common law spouse have no children; and
- Gender specific references to “wife”, “husband”, “widow”, “widower”, and other such terms have been replaced with gender neutral terminology such as “spouse” or “surviving spouse”.
The definition of spouse and the reduction in the common law cohabitation period came into effect as of March 1, 2012. The other amendments to the Act came into effect as of November 24, 2011.
Bill 11, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2005 — Amendments to Part 1 related to the definition of occupational disease and the firefighters’ occupational disease presumption.
Bill 18, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2004 passed third reading in the provincial legislature on April 27, 2004. Key amendments include:
- Providing the authority to delegate the Chief Review Officer's powers and duties, effective April 29, 2004.
- Various changes to Part 4 - Appeals, that extend equal appeal rights to workers, dependants and employers involved in the fishing industry. These amendments came into effect on June 15, 2004.
Bill 20, Railway Safety Act received Royal Assent on March 31, 2004. This bill included a consequential amendment to delete section 108(2)(b) in Part 3 of the Workers Compensation Act. This amendment results in the transfer of occupational health and safety jurisdiction for railways from the provincial government to the WCB. This transfer of occupational health and safety jurisdiction came into effect April 1, 2004.
As of April 1, 2004, the WCB has occupational health and safety jurisdiction for short-line railways, which represent lines that feed into the federally controlled railways, along with industrial and recreational railways. This includes two common carriers (Southern and E&N), approximately 45 industrial rail sites (e.g., Cominco in Trail), more than a dozen tourist railways, and SkyTrain.
The provincial government retains occupational health and safety jurisdiction for BC Rail, pending completion of the Investment Partnership with CN. Following which, the jurisdiction for occupational health and safety for BC Rail will lie with the federal government.
Bill 37, Skills Development and Labour Statutes Amendment Act, 2003 (scroll mid-way to section 16 of the Bill) passed third reading in the provincial legislature on October 8, 2003 and came into effect on December 31, 2003. Bill 37 makes changes in the following areas:
- How survivor's benefits are calculated;
- Who can diagnose a worker's mental stress condition and;
- Who can represent a worker in a workers' compensation matter.
To review the revised policy, please refer to the Board of Directors resolution - Policies Regarding the Skills Development and Labour Statutes Amendment Act, 2003
Bill 49, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2002 became effective June 30, 2002.
The legislation was introduced by the provincial government on May 13, 2002. It dealt primarily with some benefit amounts for injured workers and establishes a new model for governance of the Workers' Compensation Board. The Guide to the amended Workers Compensation Act, 2002 summarizes the changes.
Highlights of the changes are as follows:
Summary of WorkSafeBC benefit changes
|Former system||Current system|
|Basis for determining non-total disability pension level||
|Change at age 65||
|Status of mental stress claims||
|Receipt of CPP disability benefits||
To whom do the changes apply?
- Most changes apply only to those workers who are injured after June 30th, 2002.
- The legislation also establishes a new Board of Directors composed of seven people, which are chosen by the Lieutenant Governor in Council including:
- A chair who is representative of the public interest, one worker representative, one employer representative, one director who is a professional providing health care or rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities, one director who is an actuary and two representatives appointed to represent the public interest.
- The government announced further legislation dealing with the appeals process. Bill 63 came into effect on March 3, 2003.
- Other legislation is expected following additional work by the government and consultation with stakeholder groups on matters of survivor benefits, occupational disease compensation, compensation for chronic pain and regulation of occupational safety and health. Legislation covering these topics is anticipated in fall 2002 or spring 2003.
Bill 63, Workers Compensation Amendment Act (No. 2), 2002 was passed in the fall of 2002 and took effect on March 3, 2003. It changed the WCB appeal structure.
The main operational changes resulting from the legislative amendments are:
- The number of levels of review or appeal have been reduced from three (Workers' Compensation Review Board, the Appeal Division and the Medical Review Panel) to two (Review Division and Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal ("WCAT"));
- A new Division (Review Division) has been created to improve the quality of decision-making and provide the first level of review/appeal;
- A new independent external appeal tribunal (WCAT) has been established as the final level of appeal. The tribunal has access to independent medical advice and assistance in making its decisions;
- Legislated time limits have been set within which review and appeal decisions must be made;
- Policy set by the WCB Board of Directors is binding on all aspects of the workers' compensation system;
- Reopening criteria are defined; and
- The ability to reconsider decisions is significantly restricted.
As a result of the legislative amendments, the Review Board and the Appeal Division have ceased operations. On March 3, 2003 the new Review Division and the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal came into existence. Workers currently awaiting an appeal decision, advocates and affected employers have all been informed of the changes.
More information can also be obtained in the Guide to the Bill 63 amendments to the Workers Compensation Act.
Bill 14, Workers Compensation (Occupational Health and Safety) Amendment Act, 1998, generally came into force on October 1, 1999.
It replaced the occupational health and safety provisions in the Workers Compensation Act with a new Part 3 — Occupational Health and Safety.
It also repealed the Workplace Act and made a number of consequential amendments to other acts.