In October 2022, the introduction of Bill 41, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act (No. 2), in British Columbia, brought forth new requirements for employers and employees regarding return-to-work processes after work-related injuries. These changes are set to be effective from January 1, 2024.

Key elements of the Act

Both employers and injured employees in B.C. will have a legal obligation to collaborate with each other and WorkSafeBC to ensure the injured employee's timely and safe return to work. This includes:

- Initiating and maintaining communication post-injury.
- Identifying suitable work for the returning employee.
- Providing necessary information to WorkSafeBC.
- Complying with any additional requirements from WorkSafeBC.

Employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations to provide suitable work, and employees should not unreasonably refuse such work.

Employers are required to retain the employment of injured workers. This obligation ceases on the second anniversary of the injury date if the employee hasn't returned to work, or if they are performing suitable work. Employers who terminate employment within six months after an employee startssuitable work could be seen as non-compliant unless they prove the termination was unrelated to the injury.

The duty to maintain the employment of an injured worker is particularly applicable to employers with 20 or more employees and those who have employed the injured worker full-time for at least a year before the injury.
WorkSafeBC is empowered to impose administrative penalties on employers who fail to meet their return-to-work obligations, with potential fines up to $116,700, subject to annual updates by WorkSafeBC.

The obligations extend to injuries predating January 1, 2024, with specific timelines for the application of the duties to cooperate and maintain employment.

To remain compliant with the amended Act, employers should:

- Develop and implement clear internal return-to-work policies.
- Review and assess potential claims from employees injured post-January 1, 2022, for the duty to cooperate and post-July 1, 2023, for the duty to maintain employment.
- Recognize that these statutory duties complement, but do not replace, the employer’s duty to accommodate under the B.C. Human Rights Code and obligations in collective agreements for unionized workplaces.

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