Handling Disability Management Cases - Employee Is Unable to Return to Work: Options

Despite the best efforts of all the involved parties, the employee is sometimes unable to return to work due to the nature of the injury, illness or medical condition. At other times, repeated return-to-work attempts are unsuccessful. In these cases, managers should do the following:

  • Consult Human Resources for support in developing a letter outlining the employee's options for separating from employment, and get the letter to the employee in a timely fashion.
  • Make sure that any correspondence is by registered mail.
  • Advise the employee to consult Human Resources or Compensation if the employee needs assistance in determining the best option for the employee's situation.
  • Give the employee a reasonable period of time to make the necessary personal adjustments and to prepare for separation from employment.
  • Let the employee know that EAP services are available for support (while they are still employed) during this transition.
  • If applicable, discuss the situation with your team, maintaining the employee's right to privacy. Where possible, consult with the employee before this discussion to determine what information, if any, the employee would like you to share.

Once the employee has decided on a course of action, choose the appropriate scenario for the current case or situation:

Employee Is Unable to Return to Work (in the Foreseeable Future): The Employee Will Retire on Medical Grounds

Medical retirement is a possibility for employees who are not fit to work in any capacity. In a case where the employee chooses to pursue medical retirement, managers should:

  • Ensure that the employee has the appropriate documentation for the medical practitioner to complete. Health Canada must approve the medical retirement if the employee is to receive benefits for government service through the Public Service Superannuation Act.

If, based on the Health Canada decision, the employee is able to retire on medical grounds:

  • Have the employee exhaust all accumulated sick leave before the effective date of the employee's retirement on medical grounds.
  • Secure the employee's letter confirming retirement on medical grounds.
  • Process the termination of employment documentation in consultation with Compensation.

If, based on Health Canada decision, the employee is not able to retire on medical grounds, choose the appropriate scenario:

Employee Is Unable to Return to Work (in the Foreseeable Future): Employee Will Resign or Retire

When the employee chooses to resign or retire:

  • Obtain the employee's letter confirming the employee's resignation or retirement.
  • Process the termination of employment documentation in consultation with Compensation.

Employee Is Unable to Return to Work: Demotion or Termination of Employment (Non-Disciplinary)

Demotion or termination of employment under the Guidelines for Termination or Demotion for Unsatisfactory Performance; Termination or Demotion for Reasons Other than Breaches of Discipline or Misconduct; and Termination of Employment During Probation may be considered when an employee:

  • Is unable to return to work within a reasonable period of time in any reasonable capacity and accommodation options have been exhausted;
  • Has either not applied for or was not eligible for a medical retirement; and
  • Has not resigned or retired.

A number of options for separation from the public service should be reviewed. First, however, after the employee has exhausted sick leave credits, enough sick leave without pay should be authorized for the employee (or the employee's power of attorney) to work with the manager and Human Resources to make preparations for separation on medical grounds. At a minimum, advisors should include Human Resources and Compensation and Benefits Advisors, as well as the employee's union representative (if applicable).

The employee should be offered the following options:

  • Resignation: Depending on years of service and the collective agreement, the employee may be entitled to severance pay (but would lose entitlement to health and dental benefits and, if unrepresented, some benefits provided under PSMIP).
  • Termination of employment for medical incapacity: This option could offer an entitlement to more severance pay than with resignation, particularly if the employee has fewer years of service.
  • Retirement on medical grounds and an opportunity to apply for a disability pension under the Public Service Superannuation Act (PSSA): Health Canada must certify that the employee's condition meets the PSSA's definition of disability.
  • If the employee is aged 50 or older, applying for a retirement pension under the PSSA, with a possible reduction because of age or insufficient years of pensionable service.

Each of these options will have different ramifications for the income and benefits a disabled employee receives after employment ceases. For more information, refer to Managing for Wellness – 5.5 - When a Return to Work Is Not Possible.

A manager should ensure that the employee or the employee's power of attorney fully understands the implications of the termination options before a final decision is made.

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