New requirements now in effect to support injured workers

Learn more about the duty to cooperate and duty to maintain employment. 

Photo of two workers in PPE welding material.

Photo credit: © WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation Board of B.C.), used with permission

By Tanya Colledge, Guest contributor to Speaking of Safety

When you’re injured at work, there are a lot of questions that come to mind. When will I recover? How will I pay my bills? What will happen to my job? It can be a stressful time — one that can come with a lot of uncertainty.

In 2022, the B.C. government introduced Bill 41, a suite of amendments to the Workers Compensation Act to support workers and employers following a workplace injury. The most recent amendments — the duty to cooperate and the duty to maintain employment — came into effect January 1, 2024, and include specific legislation to encourage connection between workers and employers by laying out legal return-to-work responsibilities for both parties.

I spoke with Chris Girling, senior manager in Return-to-Work Services at WorkSafeBC about the importance of these changes and what workers and employers need to know.

He shared that many employers already appreciate the value of having injured workers return to work safely and have been committed to supporting workers in the event of an injury. The new requirements are a way to help formalize these processes and minimize the impacts of workplace injury.

“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 can offer huge benefits to their physical and mental health by providing them with routine and social connection to their co-workers and workplace,” he says.

Chris says workers are often eager to return to their workplace and regular routines after they’ve been injured.

“Returning to work can also help workers protect their income, employment benefits, and job security by staying in contact with their employer.”

Open lines of communication

So, what is a “duty to cooperate”? Simply put, it means that employers and workers must work together, and with WorkSafeBC, following an injury and keep open lines of communication throughout the return-to-work process. This can include checking in on the status of the injury, working together to identify and agree on suitable modified duties, and discussing when it’s safe for the worker to return to work.

“Both workers and employers have an important role to play in developing effective return-to-work plans,” says Chris, adding that outcomes are better when both the worker and employer build trust and are engaged in the process.

“The goal of these new obligations is to bring the two most important parties together and ensure they are both engaged in the return-to-work planning process.”

Find out more

The duty to cooperate will apply on claims with injury dates on or after January 1, 2022, and the duty to maintain employment applies only to some employers and applies to claims with injury dates going back up to six months from the January 1, 2024 effective date. There are many great resources to help navigate these new responsibilities and support return-to-work requirements.

Stay tuned for more blog posts focusing on return-to-work and how recovering at work benefits everyone in the workplace.

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