Legal News

WorkSafeBC Expands Presumption of Work Causation for Mental Disorders to 11 Additional “Eligible Occupations”

On June 10, 2024, the BC Government announced WorkSafeBC’s expansion of its list of recognized occupations falling under a presumption of work causation for mental disorders in an amendment to the Mental Disorder Presumption Regulation, B.C. Reg. 136/2018 (the “Regulation”).

Under the BC Workers Compensation Act (the “Act”), a worker’s claim for a mental disorder is generally only compensable if there is evidence to demonstrate that the disorder arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment. While compensation for a mental disorder claim can be granted to a worker in any occupation, the BC Government created a causation presumption in 2018 for claims filed by workers in certain “eligible occupations” as defined in the Act and Regulation. As set out under sections 135(2)-(5) of the Act, this presumption recognizes that if a worker in an eligible occupation is:

(a) exposed to one or more traumatic events arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment in that occupation, and

(b) has a mental disorder that, at the time of diagnosis is recognized in the American Psychiatric Association’s most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a condition that may arise from exposure to a traumatic event,

then the worker’s mental disorder must be presumed to be a reaction to the traumatic event(s) that arose out of and in the course of their employment, unless the contrary is proved.

As of 2018, the presumption initially applied to only five occupations: police, firefighters, paramedics, sheriffs, and correctional officers. In 2019, the presumption was expanded to include emergency dispatchers, nurses, and publicly funded health-care assistants.

By Order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, effective June 10, 2024, the presumption will now cover all of the following occupations, in addition to the original five occupations covered in 2018:

(a) community integration specialist;
(b) coroner;
(c) emergency response dispatcher;
(d) harm reduction worker;
(e) health care assistant;
(f) nurse;
(g) parole officer;
(h) probation officer;
(i) respiratory therapist;
(j) shelter worker;
(k) social worker;
(l) transition house worker;
(m) victim service worker; and
(n) withdrawal management worker.

Each of these categories are further defined in a Schedule to the amended Regulation.

These recent amendments represent a substantial expansion of the presumption and one that captures a much larger group of workers than before. Accordingly, going forward, it will be easier for a broader range of workers who are seeking compensation for mental disorder claims to have these claims accepted on the basis that their mental disorder is presumed to arise from their work, unless their employer (or WorkSafeBC) has evidence to demonstrate otherwise. Employers with workers in these newly expanded categories of eligible occupations should be aware of this recent amendment, as we expect it will result in a noticeable uptick in compensable mental disorder claims and corresponding claims costs over previous years.