Disability Management

Disability Management is a proactive approach to helping injured or ill employees return to safe and productive work activities as soon as medically possible with a primary focus of minimizing the impact of injuries or illnesses. It is a partnership involving employers, employees, health care providers, unions and employee representatives, and the WorkSafe BC.

Individual return-to-work plans are established for each injured or ill employee requiring assistance, and usually provide short-term accommodation based on his abilities and limitations. Return-to-work plans have time frames and schedules that are transitional and reflective of the employee’s needs and abilities.

Workplace injuries, illnesses, and accidents are costly to both employers and employees. Although accidents and illnesses are often preventable, and prevention is the best way to protect employees and control costs, workplaces need a way to manage resources and assist employees when injuries and illnesses occur.

A Disability Management Program facilitates early intervention, helping to maintain a positive connection to the workplace and alleviate many of the concerns experienced by injured or ill employees. Most employees want to maintain employment security by returning to work, and respond well when employers offer them an opportunity to resume appropriate job activities.

A Disability Management Program improves communication and clarifies roles and responsibilities of the participants involved. It gives partners access to a structured process that assists in resolving many of the issues encountered during the return-to-work process.

In summary, the Disability Management Program helps return employees to the workplace as part of their recovery. This maximizes treatment while minimizing lost time and the associated human and financial costs to the employee, their family, the employer and society. Experience has shown that where Disability Management Programs exist, costs associated with injury or illness are significantly reduced.

An effective Disability Management Program is genuinely a “win-win” situation for all parties involved.

Benefits to employees

Most injured or ill employees recover and return to work promptly. For a small number, however, the impact of a serious accident or illness can be devastating. Research and practical experience have shown that the longer an employee is absent from the workplace, the more difficult it is for him to return to work (NIDMAR).

A Disability Management Program helps to avoid long-term absence from the workplace, and allows the employee to:

  • maintain income;
  • retain productive employment and job security;
  • maintain self-esteem, family stability and social ties;
  • maintain job skills;
  • retain CPP benefits and employment insurance eligibility;
  • retain pension and benefit packages; and
  • resume “routine” life activities sooner, with less uncertainty about the future.

Benefits to employers

A Disability Management Program gives employers a way to manage workplace costs and improve employee benefits by creating a safer, more cooperative and productive workplace. These programs also enable employers to:

  • reduce employee turnover and lost time;
  • increase employee awareness of all costs (human and financial) of injuries and illnesses;
  • reduce accident and workers’ compensation costs;
  • reduce hiring or training costs;
  • retain experienced employees;
  • improve employee relations and morale;
  • boost overall productivity and company image;
  • participate in the rehabilitation and return-to-work process; and
  • develop a return-to-work process that may be used for work-related and non-work-related injury or illness.

Benefits to unions / employee representatives:

  • preserves jobs, seniority, benefits for employees / union members
  • promotes cooperative labour and management relations
  • facilitates their participation in the return-to-work process

Benefits to health care providers:

  • assists them in promoting the benefits of returning to all possible functional activities as soon as possible after an injury or illness;
  • increases awareness and understanding of their patient’s work activities;
  • allows increased opportunity for employment related activities to form part of their patient’s rehabilitation;
  • increases their influence on the activities their patient undertakes at work; and
  • improves opportunity for their patient’s recovery.