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2019 New Directions Report on B.C.’s WCB — KPIs (Part 2)

  • Image: “Statement by the chief coroner” by BC Gov Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The B.C. Workers Compensation Board’s (WCB or the Board) website and annual reports contain no images of anyone injured.

This is consistent with how the Board currently administers claims.

The October, 2019 report to B.C.’s Minister of Labour, New Directions Report of the Workers’ Compensation Board Review, 2019 (at p. 35) observed three particularly influential changes within the last two decades:

  • 2002’s organizational and legislative changes;
  • 2005’s re-branding of the Board as “WorkSafeBC” and changing focus and mandate; and
  • 2008’s significant introduction of a computerized Case Management System (CMS) to its decision-making process.

The CMS was discussed in last week's article.

BC’s Board is one of the only boards in Canada responsible for both compensation and workplace safety.

Its focus shifted in 2005, away from compensation and toward safety.

However, as the Dyble Report, Macatee Report, Helps Report and the Coroner's verdicts after workplace fatalities at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake (here and here) and Lakeland Mills in Prince George (here and here) confirm, workplace injuries have not disappeared.  

They cannot simply be ignored away.

The Board is heavily focused upon returning people to work (RTW).  This may be with little regard to the person’s condition, or whether healing or treatment must first occur.

The New Directions Report observed (at p. 52) that:

if RTW is simply used as a quick way to get injured workers off benefits, RTW efforts will have no credibility and will not be effective for most workers. Injured workers will correctly have no confidence in such a compensation system.

The New Directions Report discusses how the RTW focus is achieved on a daily basis through the RTW KPI (at p. 101-102):

The Board’s use of “RTW” outcomes as one of its 10 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) affects, or may appear to affect, the Board’s decision-making practices for plateau decisions.

The KPI for RTW defines “…success is when an injured worker is able to return to work within 26 weeks..., the return to work is voluntary (the worker does not object) and it is safe and durable (with no subsequent inability to work for 30 days after return…” As noted in the 2018 Annual Report, the 26-week milestone for return to work is used as a key statistical measure because the [Board’s statistical] Guidelines indicate that the majority of injuries show recovery within six months. 

The 2020 KPI target is to improve this number from 81.2% (the 2018 result) to 83% in 2020. In the case management system, the “duration of disability” is measured by the number of days that a worker receives TWL. When the plateau decision effectively ends TWL, the claim owner enters a “RTW event”.

It is this measurement which underlies the KPI; there is no independent tracking or reporting of actual successful RTW outcomes or long term RTW outcomes (past 30 days) despite many requests for this to occur.  

…Effectively the KPI is a measurement of the Board’s success at ending TWL on a statistical “norm” of recovery. Too many workers report being forced back to work “hurt” for there to be confidence in this measurement is a meaningful measure.

Further, the Review heard from many Board sources that the KPI has, in effect, supported the use of the statistical “norm” for claims adjudication…. front-line workers receive increased scrutiny from managers and senior leadership as TWL claims approached the RTW target dates in CMS and many expressed deep concern about the pressure that they received to issue “plateau” decisions in serious cases as the worker’s claim reached CMS milestones. Claims which went beyond this date were intensely watched so as not to exceed 240 days  (another target) and “keeping the 240 bucket low” was an explicit target in offices. …

Given this, I recommend that the Board discontinue the practice of using the RTW KPI as a measurement of Board performance. It creates practices and perceptions which are not consistent with a worker-centred approach and substantially undermines … the fairness and quality of RTW decisions…[and] would also help change the service culture at the Board to one focused on realistic RTW successes.

So if you have been injured at work, chances are good that within 26 weeks, a decision will be made to end your temporary disability benefits (TWL) and that you are to return to work, regardless of your condition.  Chances are even better that this will occur within 240 days. Instability in compensation often begins at this time. The injured person may be left for a significant period of time - years, even - without compensation while also unable to work as a result of a workplace injury.  

The New Directions Report was critical of other KPIs, too (at p. 54-55):

The 2018 KPI measurements were that 79% of injured workers reported a “good or very good” “overall experience” with the Board, 7% (56 workers) said they had a “poor or very poor” experience and presumably, the remainder 14% reported an “average” experience.

I have concerns about the use of this figure to measure “worker satisfaction”…. as a KPI, the rating purports to measure worker satisfaction for purpose of assessing the Board’s delivery of compensation services to injured workers.

… It explicitly dismisses “dissatisfaction” as primarily due to “sour grapes” and masks some serious service delivery issues. Issues which are not recognized, cannot be addressed. It is also inconsistent with the high level of complaints from injured workers, which prompted this Review. … A retired, long- term director of the Board wrote in his submission to the Review:

"It is absolutely ludicrous to claim that 93% of workers and/or employers today are as satisfied as the current Board proudly boasts. I am reminded of a Disraeili quote (often attributed to Mark Twain) “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics”. I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of workers during my career and I seriously doubt that even 50% were reasonably satisfied”.

… this KPI engenders little confidence that the Board appreciates or is committed to improving service to injured workers. I recommend that it be discontinued.

The Board’s 2019 annual report confirms that at that time, the Board continued to use these KPIs.  

It is time to eliminate them. The Board ought not to be using them to arbitrarily deny the injured their statutory entitlements.

Next week, more from the New Directions report.  

This is a modified version of an article appearing in online publications including the Kelowna Capital News in or around January 18, 2021. The content of this article is intended to provide very general thoughts and general information, not to provide legal advice. Advice from an experienced legal professional should be sought about your specific circumstances.  We may be reached through our website at inspirelaw.ca