Handling Disability Management Cases - Return to Work

In planning and supporting an employee’s return to work, managers should do the following:

  • Maintain contact with the ill or injured employee throughout recovery. This is an important part of return-to-work planning. Good communication from the start of the absence is the most important step.
  • Take detailed, factual notes during all discussions related to the return-to-work process and include them in the case file.
  • Know their responsibilities under the duty to accommodate. Return-to-work planning often involves accommodation.
  • Ensure that the employee is ready for a safe and timely return to work, i.e., that there is no risk to the employee or others, and that there is appropriate medical information available to support the return, outlining the employee’s abilities, functional limitations and restrictions, if applicable.
  • Find out whether the employee is interested in having a union representative or third party take part in the process, and help the employee obtain this support, as applicable.
  • Undertake a job task analysis, if needed, and actively involve the employee in the analysis and evaluation. Analysis normally involves assessing the physical job duties, but it may also include psychological considerations such as communication, exposure to conflict, and the nature of the employee’s contact with others.
  • Conduct a medical assessment, if needed. This is done by the employee’s treating physician. If there is a need to know more about physical limitations, additional expertise may be required.
  • Incorporate an integrated team approach in the return-to-work process. Return-to-work plans are transitional and have a fixed duration. At meetings, collaborate with the employee and other stakeholders (e.g., Human Resources, Labour Relations, unions, medical practitioners, the workers’ compensation board or insurers).
  • Meet with the employee at a time and place that is convenient for him or her, in person or over the phone, before the return-to-work date to discuss the return-to-work plan and, if needed, involve other stakeholders to:
    • Discuss potential workplace barriers, where applicable, to ensure that they have been identified, addressed and mitigated where possible.
    • Identify supports for rehabilitation. These may include retraining or modified or graduated work.
  • Develop a return-to-work plan together with the employee and, if needed, involve other stakeholders. The manager and the employee must sign the plan.
  • Follow up regularly to carefully monitor progress.
  • Reassess and adjust the return-to-work plan, as needed.

If no accommodation is required:

If accommodation is required:

  • Review information available from previous medical assessments regarding the employee's abilities, functional limitations and restrictions to determine whether it is sufficient to support accommodation or if further information or clarification is required, Proceed to Determining whether an employee needs a new medical assessment.

If additional information or clarification is required:

  • As much as possible, the employee's treating medical practitioner should be the primary source of information.
  • When the information available is not sufficient to support the return-to-work plan, proceed with the medical assessment. Proceed to Medical assessment.

If the medical information is sufficient:

  • Proceed with the accommodation process. Proceed to Accommodation.

Best practice tip: Managing a successful return to work takes an integrated team approach. Collaborate with all parties for best results.

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