Chapter 12: Liability for Social Workers

Additional Recommended Readings

Reamer, F.G. (2013). Social work in a digital age: Ethical and risk management challenges. Social Work, 58(2), 173–172. Retrieved from

This article examines the risks and benefits associated with the use of digital, online, and other electronic technologies in social work practice.

O’Leary, P., M. Tsui, and G. Ruch (2013). The Boundaries of the Social Work Relationship Revisited: Towards a Connected, Inclusive and Dynamic Conceptualisation. British Journal of Social Work, 43, 135–15. Retrieved from

The authors consider professional boundaries as a means of safeguarding against power imbalances, discrimination, and exploitation, and argue for a model that emphasizes “connection” rather than “separation.”

Relevant Legislation

Federal Agreement:


British Columbia:


New Brunswick:

Newfoundland and Labrador:

Nova Scotia:

  • Adult Protection Act, R.S., c. 2, s. 1
  • Fatality Investigations Act, S.N.S. 2001, c. 31
  • Social Workers Act, S.N.S. 1993, c. 12


Prince Edward Island:



Northwest Territories:

Yukon Territory:

Discussion Questions

  1. What is a discipline committee? What sanctions may be imposed upon a social worker by a discipline committee?
  2. When are coroner’s inquests called?
  3. Identify two duties to be observed by social workers, and give an example of breach of each that could give rise to liability.
  4. List three strategies that social workers can employ to protect themselves from liability.