How the Workers’ Compensation Board is supposed to work:
Workers’ compensation is supposed to make things better for workers and employers. Workers give up the right to sue employers for workplace injuries. In return, employers pay into a fund that pays for injured workers’ treatment and compensates them for lost wages.
Injured workers ought to be able to rely on the WCB to help them have a safe, successful return to work. And they should be able to count on fair compensation, so they don't have to worry about paying the bills while they recover.
What happens instead:
A comprehensive review by workers’ compensation expert Janet Patterson heard from over 1,000 workers and their families. They told her how the WCB:
- takes a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to complex injuries
- treats injured workers as adversaries
- ignores medical evidence to cut costs
- throws up barriers to compensation for psychological injuries
- creates a bureaucratic maze many injured workers can’t navigate
- forces workers back on the job before they’ve healed — putting their recovery in jeopardy and risking more injury
- fails to understand the diverse cultures and needs of injured workers.
Here’s one example of what can happen. The BC Ombudsperson recently released a report about a cabinet-maker, identified as Mr. Snider, whose hand was injured in a workplace accident and hadn’t fully healed. Against medical advice, the WCB threatened to cut off his benefits unless he returned to work. Mr. Snider went back to his job — and as a result, suffered a horrific second injury that cost him his hand.
Janet Patterson’s report sets out a comprehensive agenda for change. Here are some of the most important, urgent changes that injured workers need from the BC government:
- Give the needs and recovery of injured workers top priority — and stop making how quickly they get back to work a key measure of success
- Treat workers as individuals, and stop letting a computer system override medical advice over when injuries will heal
- Do better at communicating with injured workers, and give them the resources they need to navigate the complicated compensation system
- Remove the discriminatory barriers to compensation for workers who have psychological injuries or chronic pain
- Require the WCB to provide vocational rehabilitation, tailored to the injured worker’s individual needs, with their full involvement
- Create an independent Fair Practices Commission for worker and employer complaints about the WCB, and an independent medical services office to review medical disputes
- Provide the resources needed for the WCB to be more respectful and helpful in dealing with Indigenous communities, farmworkers and other groups facing systemic barriers
Injured workers have been waiting two years for these changes. It’s time for action.
- Read our report Workers Deserve Better, summarizing the Patterson Report and what needs to change.
- Read the full Patterson Report, including crucial testimony from injured workers.
- Read the BC Ombudsperson’s report, Severed Trust, on how the WCB rushed an injured worker back onto the job with disastrous results.