Overview of Workers’ Compensation in British Columbia
March 22, 2023
WorkSafeBC; Occupational Health & Safety
Overview of Workers’ Compensation in British Columbia
For additional information about workplace injuries, compensation claims, and the Workers’ Compensation system in British Columbia, please also review the following articles:
- Workplace Injuries and Workers Compensation Claims
- Who is Covered by Workers’ Compensation Act in British Columbia?
- WorkSafeBC Claims Guide for Injured Workers
In British Columbia, compensation for workplace injuries and occupational diseases is provided through a public insurance plan established by the Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 2019, c. 1 (WCA). The WCA creates a collective liability scheme whereby employers fund the system through payment of assessments based on an employer's payroll, the risk associated with their industry and the particular employer's claims experience rating. In exchange for funding the system, employers gain immunity from lawsuits for work-related personal injuries, mental disorders, deaths, or disablement from occupational diseases.
Workers are entitled to benefits for workplace injuries and occupational diseases regardless of fault and without the necessity of court proceedings. In exchange for compensation that depends neither on fault nor the employer’s ability to pay, workers are barred from bringing legal actions against employers and other workers in respect of work-related injury or disease.
The scheme is administered by an independent public agency established under the WCA and called the Workers’ Compensation Board (the “Board”). In British Columbia, the WCA also establishes a comprehensive health and safety regulatory regime. The Board has branded itself “WorkSafeBC” in keeping with its statutory health and safety mandate.
In British Columbia, the Board has three primary mandates:
• Regulation of occupational health and safety in the workplace (Part 2, WCA).
• Adjudication and payment of compensation for workplace injuries and occupational diseases (Part 4, WCA).
• Assessment and collection of sufficient funds from employers to support the system (Part 5, WCA).
Can a worker be compensated for pain and suffering if they are injured at work?
Workers' compensation benefits are prescribed by the WCA and provide less than full economic compensation. Unlike tort awards, there is no provision in the WCA to compensate for pain and suffering or other types of non-pecuniary losses. However, because workers' compensation benefits are paid without regard to fault, a worker’s benefits are not reduced by reason of any contributory negligence on the part of the worker as they would be under the tort system.
Whereas the goal behind a tort award is to place the individual in the position he would have been in but for the tortfeasor’s negligence (i.e., to make the individual whole), the goal behind workers' compensation benefits is to compensate all workers fairly, regardless of fault, and to provide rehabilitation for a timely return to work.
WorkSafeBC (the Board Level)
First level decisions are made by various Board officers. For example, a case manager will make decisions respecting a worker’s wage loss, health care or rehabilitation benefits. An assessment officer will make decisions regarding an employer’s assessments.
The Board (including the Board’s internal Review Division, which operates as a first level of appeal) has exclusive jurisdiction to inquire into, hear, and determine all matters and questions of fact and law arising in a workers’ compensation claim and the action or decision of the Board is final.
The Review Division
The Review Division is the internal review body of the Board. Its review officers may review and either confirm, cancel or vary most decisions respecting compensation, rehabilitation or assessments.
Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal
Most decisions made by the Review Division of the Board may be further appealed to an external and independent tribunal called the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT). WCAT is the final decision maker in the workers' compensation system and its decisions are protected by a strongly worded privative clause. Any further recourse must be through judicial review in the courts (sections 293, 308 and 309, WCA).
Note that some decisions cannot be appealed to WCAT. For example, decisions respecting rehabilitation issues cannot be appealed to WCAT and the Review Division decision is the final decision in the system and is subject to direct judicial review (section 288(2)(b), WCA).
In British Columbia, the WCAT also has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine the status under the WCA of parties to a personal injury lawsuit and to certify that determination to the court. This is important since a worker cannot sue an employer or another worker in the Province of British Columbia. The parties and the court are bound by WCAT’s determination. The court then makes an order that gives effect to WCAT’s finding as to whether the WCA provides a bar to the action
Note to Readers: The information in this article is not legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice in relation to a particular matter please contact our experienced Employment & Disability Group.
Chris Drinovz is a Partner at KSW Lawyers and the founder and leader of the Employment & Labour Group. His calling is to excellence through the mastery of his craft and tireless dedication to his clients. He is described as hard-working, analytical, trustworthy, and genuine. Chris works with business leaders and union and non-union organizations to solve workplace legal problems and achieve long-term solutions that align with his client’s values. He is a dedicated advisor and an experienced courtroom advocate with a track record of success.
Kirsten Hildebrandt is a paralegal working for the Employment & Disability Group at KSW Lawyers. She was raised in Abbotsford, BC and grew up with a passion for learning. She graduated from high school with an International Baccalaureate Diploma and then moved to Kelowna, BC to study history and political science at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan Campus. In 2013, she concluded the rigorous Paralegal Diploma Program at Capilano University and was awarded her Paralegal Diploma with Distinction.
Have questions? Need insight? Our team can assist you in examining your options and determining which path best suits your needs.
Disclaimer: the information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as a lawyer-client relationship has been established. By checking this box you agree to receive communications from KSW Lawyers, which may include quarterly email Newsletters containing legal updates (may easily unsubscribe at any time).