Leading business organizations are calling on the B.C. government to withdraw legislation that allows presumption of viral illness as a workplace injury, changes the determination of retirement age for injured workers and makes other changes to WorkSafeBC’s policies.
Premier John Horgan and Labour Minister Harry Bains stood by the changes in the B.C. legislature July 21, as opposition MLAs peppered him with concerns from a lengthy letter from the Business Council of B.C., the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the Retail Council of Canada, Restaurants Canada and other business organizations.
Employers argue that B.C. is changing its provisions to deal with COVID-19 at a time when the federal government’s new sick pay program is still being worked out, and moves ahead with changes that “destabilize” the employer-funded compensation program at a time when businesses are reeling from pandemic-related loss of revenue and employment.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson led off question period by asking Bains why the changes beyond the recommendations of a consultant who met with business representatives.
“The proposed changes to workers’ compensation will make it even more difficult for small businesses to bounce back from this devastating pandemic,” Wilkinson said.
Waiving a 90-day period for determining if a viral illness is work-related “amounts to government pre-judging WorkSafeBC’s independent policy decision-making authority,” the letter states.
“We are disappointed the government would take a position contrary to all scientific and medical science. Such a position, regrettably mirrors the disastrous approach taken by the administration in the United States.”
Horgan emphasized that the changes do not increase WorkSafeBC payroll premiums for employers for three years.
“What we’ve done is increase benefits for workers without adding any cost to businesses,” Horgan said.
Bains noted that the government has taken significant steps to support business in the pandemic, including the ability to defer WorkSafeBC insurance payments for six months.