■ Duties and responsibilities:

Expectations of physicians in practice

Workplace injuries: The duty to report when your patient is an injured worker

Worker sitting with a bandaged arm

5 minutes

Published: May 2024

The information in this article was correct at the time of publishing

In brief

  • You have a mandatory duty to provide a workers’ compensation board1 with a medical report about an injured worker.
  • Familiarize yourself with the legislation in your province or territory, since reporting criteria, timing, and contents vary across the country.
  • When making a report, be careful to disclose only the amount of information necessary to fulfil the statutory reporting requirement.

Deciding whether a report should be made

In some jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Nova Scotia, the reporting duty is only triggered where a worker is claiming benefits. In these provinces, a report is generally not required if the worker is not submitting a claim for benefits.

In most other jurisdictions, the duty to report applies regardless of whether or not the worker is claiming benefits. The specific criteria, timing, and contents of the report vary across the country, so it is important to be familiar with the applicable legislation in your jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, not only initial reports are required, but also ongoing reports. Contact the Board in your jurisdiction for the relevant reporting requirements.

When deciding whether a report should be made, carefully document your rationale for the decision in the patient’s medical record. If you have questions or concerns about your duty to report, contact the CMPA.

Billing and workplace injuries

In those jurisdictions where the reporting duty is only triggered where a worker is claiming benefits (e.g. Ontario and Nova Scotia), challenges can arise if the patient is not claiming benefits and asks you not to report to the Board. For example, medical treatment for work-related injuries must generally be billed to the Board (instead of the provincial/territorial health insurance plan). Billing the Board could result in the indirect disclosure of a work-related injury. You may wish to seek advice from your provincial or territorial medical association regarding appropriate billing in this situation.

Limit the amount of information disclosed

When making a report, be careful to disclose only the information required to fulfil the statutory reporting requirement. The patient’s medical history should not be disclosed unless it is relevant to the work-related injury or the patient’s ability to return to work. If you plan to disclose personal health information that is not related to the workplace injury, you need explicit patient consent. Failure to obtain this consent could result in a College or privacy complaint. Document the patient’s consent to the disclosure of additional personal health information in the medical record.

Tell the patient what is going to be reported

You should generally advise patients of your legal obligation to report. You should also tell the patient what is going to be disclosed to the Board.

If the patient refuses to share any of the proposed information with the Board, you should only disclose the information for which the patient has consented. You should then advise the patient that you will be telling the Board that there is some information for which the patient has declined consent. While the Board will likely direct you to the mandatory reporting provision as authority to disclose the requested information, you will be in a position to state that you did everything to try to respect the patient’s wishes and privacy.

Providing information to an employer or other third party

Although legislation requires the physician to report to the Board, it does not authorize you to provide information about the workplace injury to the patient’s employer (or any other third party) without consent.

If you are concerned the patient’s injury may adversely affect the safety of others (for example, if they use heavy equipment) and they are continuing to perform their regular duties, you should make the patient aware of your concerns and encourage them to discuss the issue with their employer or otherwise address the risk.

Supporting a claim for workers’ compensation

Laws in some jurisdictions require you, without charge to the patient, to provide the patient (or their dependents) with the information, advice, and assistance necessary to make a claim for workers’ compensation. This includes providing any medical certificates or records required for the claim. You may wish to seek advice from your provincial or territorial medical association regarding appropriate billing for these tasks.

Additional reading

  1. Agency names vary across Canada. While they may sometimes be called Commissions, this article will use the term “Board.”

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this learning material is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific professional medical or legal advice, nor to constitute a "standard of care" for Canadian healthcare professionals. The use of CMPA learning resources is subject to the foregoing as well as the CMPA's Terms of Use.