When employees are injured at work, they generally can’t sue employers. Instead, they can claim workers’ compensation benefits from the workers’ compensation board in their province or territory. In BC, the workers’ compensation board is called WorkSafeBC.
This article explains some of the most important benefits you can qualify for at WorkSafeBC. Many of these benefits are the same, or very similar, to benefits available in other provinces – though the rules by which they’re awarded are often quite different.
This is one of the most important, but most overlooked, benefit that WorkSafeBC provides to injured workers.
Under the Workers Compensation Act, WorkSafeBC can provide any services or supplies, including related transportation, to “cure” a worker’s injury or “alleviate the effects of the injury.”
Through medical professionals, WorkSafeBC provides a wide range of treatments and medications to injured workers, including psychological care. In many cases, these can be provided after you are no longer expected to improve, or you’ve “plateaued,” since many of these treatments and medications, while not being able to cure the injury, would “alleviate” the effects of the injury – in other words, make you feel better or prevent you from getting worse.
We always recommend that clients talk with their doctors and healthcare professionals and ask WorkSafeBC for whatever healthcare treatment the clients think they need.
We always recommend that clients talk with their doctors and healthcare professionals and ask WorkSafeBC for whatever healthcare treatment the clients think they need. Each and every ask to the Board for healthcare benefits is a separate decision, and so, if the Board says no, you can appeal that decision to the Review Division and, if needed, WCAT (The Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal).
We can’t overstate, however, how important it is to work with your medical professionals. When it comes to approving healthcare treatments, WorkSafeBC will generally prefer the opinions of healthcare professionals over yours.
We find that our WorkSafeBC clients appear to get treatment far faster than the general public would. This is one of the reasons the healthcare benefits from WorkSafeBC are so valuable. Another reason healthcare benefits are so important is what might happen to you in the future. If your injury is “aggravated” – in other words, suddenly gets much worse – you can always make a claim to WorkSafeBC to get that quick access to healthcare benefits once again.
If you’re injured at work and WorkSafeBC accepts your claim, you can be credited for wage-loss benefits as soon as the next shift you miss at work.
You get 90% net of your earnings. This means you get 90% of your wages after taxes and other deductions have been made. Generally speaking, you’ll get these benefits until you’re working again.
WorkSafeBC prioritizes getting paycheques out the door to injured workers as quickly as possible. Once you make your claim, you can expect a cheque fairly quickly. For workers living paycheque to paycheque, this often means that workers can avoid financial disaster while they work to get better and return to the workplace.
Vocational Rehabilitation or “VR” benefits
WorkSafeBC may provide you with Vocational Rehabilitation (or “VR”) benefits and services that help you get back to work safely, earning what you did before the injury, as soon as possible.
VR benefits are highly discretionary. In other words, there’s a lot of room within the rules for WorkSafeBC to decide whether you should be offered these services or not. There are certain factors that can increase the chances of you receiving VR benefits, such as whether you have the sorts of skills that would make it easy for you to move to a new job, and whether WorkSafeBC thinks you’re motivated to work with them to get back to work.
VR services include the help of a professional consultant to make a tailored plan for you to get back to work, and, at WorkSafeBC’s discretion, paying you wage-loss benefits and covering the cost of training to develop new skills. While workers have input into these plans, it’s important to know that, from WorkSafeBC’s perspective, the goal isn’t finding you the ideal job. WorkSafeBC’s first priority in the VR process is to get you back to work with your employer if at all possible.
Long-term or permanent disability benefits
Injured workers, once they’ve gotten as healthy as they can after an injury (or “plateaued”), can be referred to Long-Term Disability Services at WorkSafeBC. WorkSafeBC will refer a worker to the Long-term Disability Services department if WorkSafeBC thinks the worker may have an injury that will affect his or her earnings potential. In other words, if your injury will limit how much you can make working, then you may get compensation for that – until the age of 65, or later. This compensation comes in monthly payments.
Permanent disability benefits are measured on your loss of earnings or your “loss of function,” whichever is higher.
Permanent disability benefits are measured on your loss of earnings or your “loss of function,” whichever is higher. WorkSafeBC decides which way they’re going to calculate your benefits, and it’s an important decision that workers should appeal in many situations. For example, imagine a carpenter with a traumatic hand injury getting paid permanent disability benefits for the loss of range of motion in his fingers and thumb rather than his actual loss of earnings – after his injury means he’ll never be able to work in his chosen profession again. If he’s paid according to loss of function instead of loss of earnings, he might be out thousands of dollars in the long run.
No matter what the situation, you should see a lawyer if you have a significant injury and WorkSafeBC’s informed you that you’re not going to be referred to long-term disability services. And, if you’re a young worker or many years from retirement, you should see a lawyer if you’ve just received a permanent disability award. Even a small increase to a permanent disability benefit can mean thousands of additional dollars to you and your family!
WorkSafeBC provides many other benefits to workers, including the Personal Care Allowance and the Independence and Home Maintenance Allowance for severely injured workers. Depending on your injury, you may qualify for other amounts, such as awards for chronic pain or tinnitus.
We’ve helped workers get thousands of dollars’ worth of benefits they didn’t know they qualified for.
Injured workers can benefit greatly by consulting with a lawyer. We’ve helped workers get thousands of dollars’ worth of benefits they didn’t know they qualified for – and WorkSafeBC did not offer to them until we asked on their behalf.