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What you need to know: Changes to the Workers Compensation Act

April 17, 2019
On April 16, 2019, amendments to mental disorder presumption regulations under the Workers Compensation Act took effect.

Changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act Regarding Mental Disorder Presumption

On April 16, 2019, amendments to mental disorder presumption regulations under the Workers Compensation Act took effect.

What is it?

Section 5.1 of the Workers Compensation Act allows for claims of work-related psychological injury. Under this section of the Act, a psychological injury may be the primary or secondary to a physical injury. These psychological injuries are also referred to as mental disorders.
In general, claims must meet two primary criteria to be considered:

  • A psychologist or psychiatrist has made a formal diagnosis, and
  • The mental disorder is a reaction to:
    • one or more traumatic work-related events or
    • a significant work-related stressor, or cumulative series of work-related stressors; and
    • is not caused by a decision of the worker’s employer relating to the worker’s employment, including a decision to change the work to be performed or the working conditions, to discipline the worker or to terminate the worker’s employment.

For specific occupations, claims are adjudicated under the Act's presumptive clause in 5.1 (1.1). For these occupations, it is presumed that the mental disorders of workers exposed to a traumatic event and diagnosed as experiencing a mental disorder because of that traumatic event are work-related injuries.

What is the presumptive clause?

Workers who fall under certain occupation categories have their mental disorder claims adjudicated under slightly different criteria than those who don’t. Under Section 5 (1.1), an eligible worker who:

  • is exposed to one or more work-related events and
  • is diagnosed with a mental disorder that is recognized as a mental or physical condition that may arise from exposure to a traumatic event,

must have their mental disorder presumed to be a work-related injury unless the contrary is proved.

What’s changed?

Prior to the amendments that came into effect on April 16, 2019, only the following occupations were covered under the presumptive clause:

  • Correctional officers
  • Emergency medical assistants (e.g. paramedics)
  • Firefighters are assigned primarily to fire suppression duties.
  • Police officers
  • Sheriffs

As of April 16, 2019, the following occupations were added:

  • Emergency dispatchers whose duties include the dispatch of firefighters, police officers and ambulance services, and those who receive emergency (911) calls from the public.
  • The B.C. College of Nursing Professionals regulates all nurses, including licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses.
  • Health care assistants (care aides) registered with the BC Care Aide & Community Health Worker Registry and employed in a publicly-funded organization or setting.

What does it mean for those in continuing care?

Going forward, mental disorder claims made by health care assistants in publicly-funded organizations and all nurses regulated by the B.C. College of Nursing Professionals will be adjudicated under the presumptive clause. This means it will be presumed that mental disorders arising from a traumatic work experience are work-related. Mental disorders will still require a formal diagnosis by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Where can I learn more?

Learn more information on mental disorders, the Workers Compensation Act, and a summary of claims statistics. Read the regulatory changes and Ministry of Labour announcement. SafeCare BC members are also welcome to connect with SafeCare BC by phone (604-630-5572) or email info@safecarebc.ca with any questions.

Fast facts:

Mental disorder claims reported to WorkSafeBC by year

Mental disorder claims reportedMental disorder claims allowed% (allowed/reported)% allowed (where allowed/disallow decision made)
20163,6251,25335%54%
20173,9341,35134%55%
20184,4041,51634%62%

Mental Disorder Claims Reported to WorkSafeBC by subsector (top-5 by total volume)

201620172018Average (3-year)
Total - all sectors3,6253,9344,4043,988
Healthcare and social services1,0021,1111,3871,167
Transportation and related services365387385379
Public administration243320339301
Retail266248247254
Education213234293247

Mental Disorder Claims Reported to WorkSafeBC by occupation (top-5 by total volume)

Occupation201620172018Average (3-year)
Total - all sectors3,6253,9344,4043,988
Nurse267340394334
Social and community service workers204228281238
Nurse aides, orderlies, and patient service associates140157187161
Bus drivers, subway operators, and other transit operators139129172147
Paramedical occupations116114193141

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