How to Build a Disability Management Program - Guiding Principles for a Successful Disability Management Program

Committed Integration

A disability management program is designed to help employees who are injured or ill, or who have a medical condition, enabling them to remain at work or return to work. It requires the support and commitment of all parties, including:

  • Employees, including co-workers;
  • Managers;
  • Union representatives;
  • Co-workers;
  • Human Resources;
  • Insurance carriers;
  • Workers' compensation boards;
  • Medical practitioners; and
  • Rehabilitation professionals.

Each party has unique roles and responsibilities, and best results require collaboration.

Integrated disability management programs address both occupational and non-occupational illness and injury. An integrated approach recognizes that interventions deliver better outcomes for the employee and the employer in prevention, support for recovery, and accommodation.

Engaged Employees

Employee engagement has a significant influence on the success of a disability management program. It leads to a healthier workplace with lower levels of absenteeism, higher retention and greater productivity. Employee engagement needs leadership with vision and direction, ongoing opportunities to meaningfully contribute to the workplace, and communication that is clear and consistent.

Proactive Management

Being proactive is an essential component of disability management. All parties must know their roles and responsibilities in the return-to-work plan so that it enables a safe and healthy workplace and ensures that required accommodations are in place. This should enable the employee to remain at work if possible, or to require less time away from the workplace at the onset of injury or illness.

Strategies and resources to support prevention and early intervention in Managing for Wellness: Disability Management Handbook for Managers in the Federal Public Service 

Effective Communication

Ongoing, effective communication between all parties involved in disability management helps reduce the risks of miscommunication or misunderstandings and ensures timely action. To be effective, communication must include regular contact. Both the communicator and the respondent must strive to be open-minded and non-defensive, and to demonstrate active listening skills.

Protecting Privacy

Because employees have a strict right to privacy and confidentiality, managers are not permitted to ask for information on diagnosis and treatment.

  • Medical information is not required to fulfill a manager's role to support disabled, ill or injured employees. However, managers should know the abilities, functional limitations and restrictions of employees so that they can fulfill the duty to accommodate and enable employees to remain at work or return to work in a timely and safe manner.
  • A manager must be aware of the employee's right to the privacy of personal information, even in situations when an employee voluntarily shares this information. Before an employee's information can be disclosed to a third party (such as a medical practitioner, insurance company, or union representative), the employee must provide written consent.
  • Employees may be required to disclose personal medical information in certain situations, for example, when they have a life-threatening medical condition that could precipitate a medical emergency at work or could put other employees at risk.
  • Avoid using email to receive or forward completed medical certificates to Human Resources. Doing so could compromise the employee's privacy.

Furthermore, The Public Service Commission of Canada outlines questions and approaches for gathering information in the Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities: How to Determine and Implement Assessment Accommodations

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