In the last couple of years, employers and organizations have
seen their costs associated with employee absenteeism
skyrocket. Absenteeism in the workplace can take many forms,
ranging from intermittent absences, employees off for minor
illnesses or injury or lengthy absences. The million dollar
question for employers is how it should go about containing and
managing such costs, particularly in an economic climate of
financial restraint. To avoid increasing costs, more
employers and organizations have begun to implement disability
management programs and processes.
An effective disability management program is a process that is
specifically designed to facilitate the employment of persons with
a disability or injury through a coordinated effort involving
several stakeholders, including human resources, management and the
employee with a disability or injury. Some of the common
steps that are recommended by the Conference Board of Canada in its
October 2013 paper, Creating an Effective Workplace Disability
Management Program are summarized below:
Creating a Needs Assessment – this involves reviewing
what formal or informal practices exist or should exist to best
support an employee during an absence or return to work. It also
involves identifying whether the absence stems from an occupational
or non-occupational condition, and determining what the
employee's functional abilities and restrictions are
Identifying key stakeholders who will oversee and monitor the
disability management process
Establishing disability management processes and policies
Developing a communication plan – this should aim to
communicate the program's objectives, successes, and challenges
to all employees. The communication plan should also address the
steps that management and human resources will take to stay in
touch with an employee during a leave, monitor and track medical
documentation for accommodation purposes, and to determine whether
further, more detailed medical information is required from the
Developing an individualized return to work plan that is
specific to the employee's needs
Determining accommodation and transitional job options
Consider managing or outsourcing disability claims
Monitoring and evaluating the program
Monitoring and evaluating individual accommodation and
In the short-term, it may seem daunting and time-consuming for
employers and human resource professionals to create a formalized
disability management process, but the benefits of having a process
in place will lead to cost-reduction and reduction in legal
exposure if workplace absenteeism is monitored effectively.
Employers should also be aware that effective January 1, 2016,
under the Integrated Accessibility Standard ("IAS"),
which is a regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians
with Disabilities Act,2005, employers who have 50 or
more employers will be required by law to develop formalized
individual accommodation plans and return to work plans for their
employers. In light of the upcoming compliance date, it is
recommended that employers begin the process of evaluating their
existing absenteeism policies, and develop a coordinated process
for dealing with disability and injury management that is in
compliance with AODA requirements.
Although smaller organizations with fewer than 50 employees are
not required to develop individual accommodation plans and return
to work plans, it is recommended that such policies be implemented
for due diligence purposes, and to avoid costly legal human rights
claims alleging discrimination on the basis of disability for
failure to accommodate.
If your organization requires assistance in developing an
effective disability management process and getting up to speed
with the IAS standards, the lawyers at CCP have extensive
experience designing such programs, and offering training regarding
same, and would be happy to arrange for a consultation to review
your organization's existing policies.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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