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New return to work obligations for British Columbia for 2024


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Starting January 1, 2024, British Columbia employers and workers will have a legal duty to cooperate with one another and with WorkSafeBC on a worker’s timely and safe return to work (RTW) following an injury. Additionally, certain employers will have an obligation to return injured workers to work in specific circumstances.

The duty to cooperate creates obligations for workers and employers to cooperate with one another, and with WorkSafeBC. They are required 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 these return-to-work changes retroactive?

The provisions apply to claims with injury dates before January 1, 2024, in certain circumstances.

The duty to cooperate will apply to claims with injury dates up to two years before the January 1 effective date, while the duty to maintain employment provision will apply to claims with injury dates up to six months before the effective date.

What does it mean for employers with workers in British Columbia?

Workers and employers will have mutual obligations under the duty to cooperate. Employers and workers will be required to cooperate by contacting one another and maintaining communication, identifying suitable work for the worker, providing WorkSafeBC with information required to support return-to-work efforts, and doing other related tasks WorkSafeBC may require.

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 will be required to offer either that pre-injury work or a comparable alternative.

If the worker cannot perform their pre-injury job, but is otherwise fit to work in another capacity, the employer will be required to offer the first suitable work that becomes available. The legislation also requires employers to make any changes necessary to the work or workplace to accommodate an injured worker unless the changes create an undue hardship for the employer.

Penalties may be required, as laid out in the legislation. If an employer remains non-compliant, WorkSafeBC may apply an administrative penalty based on the amount of the annual wage-loss or other benefits being paid to the worker.

What does it mean for workers?

Workers and employers in British Columbia will 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.

If a worker is fit to return to their pre-injury work, the employer will be required to offer either that pre-injury work or a comparable alternative.

WorkSafeBC is working on new policies, practice directives and other resources to support the new obligations when they come into effect on January 1.

What is Alight doing to assist with these new return-to-work obligations? 

Our case managers will guide our clients through this new policy initiative during RTW discussions post-accident and when restrictions may pose a barrier to return to work. The key will be an open and honest dialogue with WorkSafe BC to ensure compliance. 

If you have any immediate questions about these changes, please contact your account manager.

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