Today’s announcement of changes to the Workers Compensation Act is a welcome start, while recognizing many of the changes injured workers need are yet to come, BCFED President Laird Cronk said today.
“This is a step forward for injured workers and their families,” Cronk said. “It will make it easier for many of them to get the support they need. We also recognize there’s still a lot more to do to reverse the damage done by the Liberal cuts two decades ago, and restore genuine balance to the Workers’ Compensation Board.”
Cronk pointed to the appointment of a Fair Practices Commissioner as a particularly important step. “This could prove to be a critical avenue for ensuring fair, respectful treatment for injured workers,” he said. “We still believe a fully independent commission is the best way to address complaints, so we’ll be watching closely to see whether the commissioner is provided with real teeth to bring improvements.”
BCFED Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore welcomed the ban on claims suppression. “Too many employers feel they can get away with pressuring workers not to make WCB claims,” she said. “Explicitly prohibiting claims suppression sends a clear message to employers those days are over.”
She also applauded the move to require the WCB to pay interest on delayed benefits. “Delaying benefits costs injured workers real money — often in the form of credit card debt or bank loans — at a time they can least afford it. It’s only right the WCB pay them interest on money injured workers are effectively lending them.”
Cronk also welcomed the news that disability benefits will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index. “It’s good to know injured workers won’t have to see their benefits eroded by inflation, especially after this past year,” he said. “Now we need to address the fact that injured workers’ disability pensions end at age 65 — but their disability doesn’t.”
He added the BCFED remains committed to removing barriers to psychological injury claims. “It shouldn’t be harder to have a claim accepted for a psychological injury than it is for a physical one,” he said. “We’re disappointed that isn’t addressed in the legislation, but we understand work is forthcoming on this issue through regulation.”
Cronk said today’s announcement “gives injured workers a badly-needed toehold for reform, after waiting for years for action. BC unions will have their backs, and we’ll keep pushing for the changes needed to make the WCB the truly worker-centered organization it’s supposed to be.”