WorkSafeBC’s Stance on Return-to-Work: A Brief Overview

WorkSafeBC views returning to work when safe to do so as something that will help an injured worker’s mental health and physical well-being, along with other benefits.  WorkSafeBC requires a worker to actively participate in Return-to-Work plans if medical assessments indicate they are able to do so. Return-to-Work plans may include modified duties, adjusted hours, and support in the workplace to allow the worker to return to work in a way that aids their recovery. Can WBC force you back to work? WorkSafeBC policy aims for Return-to-Work plans to be developed collaboratively between the employer and the injured worker and be safe and suitable. 

The Role of Medical Assessments in Return-to-Work Decisions

Can WBC force you back to work? Depending on an injured worker’s situation it may feel like that is what WorkSafeBC is doing, and it could be in part due to the role of Medical Assessments in Return-to-Work decisions. WCB may ask a worker’s health care provider to provide an assessment on a worker’s function as it relates to their pre-injury job and what work is suitable for them.  It may also seek other medical assessments in establishing if an injured worker is able to safely return to work. The medical assessments are integral to establishing a Return-to-Work plan that considers an injured worker’s abilities and limitations, and also what would be considered suitable work for the worker. 

Your Rights and Obligations Under WorkSafeBC’s Guidelines

If you are wondering, can WCB force you back to work? RSCM Policy Item: C5-35.00 (3) states that “The worker must cooperate by contacting and maintaining communication with the employer, assisting with identification of suitable work if requested by the employer, and providing the Board with relevant information regarding their return to, or continuation of, work. The worker must also cooperate with the Board by not unreasonably refusing suitable work when it has been made available by the employer, or by another employer.”

Common Misconceptions about WCB’s Return-to-Work Policies

Implementation of Return-to-Work policies will look different for each worker and employer, and that can lead to the formation of some common misconceptions: 

Misconception #1 – Return-to-Work means quickly returning to the same duties as pre-injury:

Can WCB force you back to work? Part of the WCB’s Duty to Cooperate policy is that employers and injured workers will work collaboratively to formulate a Return-to-Work plan that assists the worker’s recovery. This could mean modified duties or hours, or a lighter workload among other things. While the main goal may be to help the worker recover to the point that they can do their pre-injury duties, if the worker is returning to work after being injured in the workplace the expectation is not that they will be immediately required to do their pre-injury job.

Misconception #2: Employers are not obligated to provide continued employment to a worker with an injury that arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment: Although there are some exceptions, if a worker is injured due to their work and has been disabled from earning full time wages, their employer is required to find suitable work for them in order to facilitate a return to work and successful recovery. RSCM Policy Item: C5-35.20 states that “employers have a duty to maintain the employment of an injured worker when certain conditions are met. Depending on the circumstances, maintaining employment may involve returning the worker to their pre-injury work, providing alternative work, or providing suitable work. The duty to maintain employment includes making any change to the work or workplace necessary to accommodate a worker to the point of undue hardship.” 

The Importance of Effective Communication with Your Employer

Effective Communication with your employer is integral to a successful return to work and a safe recovery. Staying in consistent contact with an employer can help both the worker and the employer identify suitable work that is safe, meaningful, and within the abilities of the injured worker so that their recovery is not harmed. RSCM Policy Item: C5- 35.00 (4) explains that the Employer has a duty to maintain employment and keeping up effective communication can assist in both the worker and the employee meeting their obligations under the duty to cooperate. 

How WCB Lawyers Can Advocate for Your Rights

If you are wondering, can WCB force you back to work, a WCB Lawyer can help address your questions and concerns. Facing WorkSafeBC on your own can be intimidating, especially while recovering from an injury and going through the Return-to-Work process.  Having our dedicated WCB lawyers by your side means having a skilled advocate who will fight for your rights, negotiate on your behalf and help address. Our WCB lawyers will guide you through the WorkSafeBC policies and help you understand what rights and obligations you have when it comes to the Return-to-Work process. If you need assistance protecting your rights, contact Gosal & Company at 604-591-8187 or by email at