Disability Management: Employee Wellness Resource
Disability Management in the Federal Public Service
As a federal public service employee, you share a responsibility with your employer to protect and support health and safety. You are responsible for taking care of your health; your employer has an obligation to ensure a safe workplace. It is in everyone's interests to promote healthy workplace practices that help all employees perform their work to the best of their ability.
This resource highlights the benefits and services available to help you stay physically and mentally healthy and the supports that are available if an illness or injury occurs. It outlines:
- What to expect from your employer to help you stay healthy;
- Who the key players are;
- Where to get support;
- What you need to do; and
- Where to go to get more information.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against illness or injury is to take care of your health. Your employer encourages you to be proactive about protecting your physical and mental health.
- Learn how to use the tools of your trade in a safe and efficient manner. Whether you use a mouse or a drill, sit for most of the day or lift heavy objects, make sure you use safe work practices and that you are aware of the potential hazards in your work environment. If you have concerns, speak to your supervisor.
- Let your employer know as soon as possible if, due to medical reasons, you need special equipment or any other accommodation to work effectively and comfortably—your supervisor will work with you to get the accommodations you need. Your supervisor may ask you to provide documentation from your physician to support the request.
- You are encouraged to go for your annual medical and dental checkups. Check your workplace policies and your collective agreement for information for leave to attend these appointments.
- Don't wait to seek help for yourself or for your family. Support services are provided through the Employee Assistance Program.
- Look for training on health, safety and wellness issues that is relevant to your work and discuss this with your supervisor. Include this in your learning plan.
Explore the links provided at the end of this document for more information.
Did you know?
The duty to accommodate is a legal obligation that requires employers to identify and eliminate barriers to participation in the workplace, including barriers to persons with disabilities. Accommodation measures for employees with disabilities can include changes to work duties or hours of work, as well as the provision of specialized equipment or support services. Your employer must seek to fulfill the duty to accommodate, to the point of undue hardship. You and your union also have an important role to play in the process by helping to identify required accommodation measures. It is important to communicate your needs early so that your employer can accommodate you in a timely fashion.
For more information, consult the Resources of Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Treasury Board Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons With Disabilities in the Federal Public Service.
The Key Players
You are the most important player in keeping healthy and avoiding injury. But, should you need support, there are partners willing to help.
This person is your primary point of contact if you are ill or injured. It is your supervisor's responsibility to:
- Work with you to identify supports, including accommodations that can help you remain at work if you are able, or return to work when it is safe to do so;
- Maintain communication with you in a manner that is appropriate to your situation. Keeping you connected to work is important for your recovery. Your supervisor and your colleagues can be an important source of emotional support and encouragement;
- Verify that your leave is being used appropriately. You may be asked to provide a medical certificate. Refer to your collective agreement, Treasury Board and internal policies; and
- Coordinate the accommodation you may need to remain at work or for your return to work.
Your disability management advisor
- Ask your supervisor if your organization has a disability management advisor. If so, obtain his or her contact information.
- The disability management advisor acts as a primary source of support for employees who face illness or injury. The advisor takes care of logistics and helps all parties get the information and support they need to make proactive, informed decisions, facilitating the remain-at-work or return-to-work process.
- If your organization does not have a disability management advisor, speak to your supervisor about who is responsible for the remain-at-work or return-to-work process.
Your health professional
- Your health professional will go over your expected healing and recovery time, and will discuss the benefits of a gradual increase in activity as soon as possible and its positive effect on your physical and psychological health.
- Your health professional will help identify and address potential obstacles to your recovery and return to work by helping you describe your professional capabilities, your functional limitations and your restrictions.
- Your health professional will support you in taking an active role in your return to work and in communicating directly and regularly with your manager.
Your union representative
- Your union representative can help you understand your rights and obligations on issues related to health and safety, and the benefits and services available to you.
- This representative can offer support when you are ill or injured, and in the remain-at-work or return-to-work process as you reintegrate into the workplace.
- This professional represents your interests on health and safety committees and in developing departmental policies and healthy workplace practices.
Your compensation advisor
- Your compensation advisor can provide information on your benefits and the options available to you to maintain your income if you are ill or injured and you need to take leave, or if you are totally disabled and cannot return to work.
Your adjudicator or case manager with the provincial workers' compensation board
- Your adjudicator or case manager will determine whether your claim is accepted, and your entitlement to benefits.
- They can answer your questions about processes, scope of benefits and rehabilitative services; and
- They can also help facilitate the remain-at-work or return-to-work process.
Your insurance adjuster or case manager
- Your insurance adjuster or case manager will answer your questions about your claim, and the income benefits and rehabilitative services available to you if your claim is approved.
- They can also help to facilitate the remain-at-work or return-to-work process; and
- They may need to pre-approve your return to work, rehabilitation or treatment plan.
Did you know?
If you have concerns it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your supervisor. Your union representative may also be able to help. Informal conflict management services in your organization can be an effective first step to resolve these issues.
There are formal appeals and grievance processes for workers' compensation and the disability insurance plans. Both have strict timelines for filing an appeal.
Support for Wellness
Taking care of your health
- The Public Service Health Care Plan offsets the costs of medication, massage, physiotherapy and psychological services for you and your dependants.
- Your Public Service Dental Care Plan offsets costs of annual checkups and applicable treatments.
- Workplace policies provide time off for regular appointments, and many collective agreements provide for leave with pay for family-related responsibilities.
- Your department's or agency's Employee Assistance Program is a confidential way to get professional help for personal or work-related problems.
- Some organizations have gyms on-site, corporate rates for gym memberships, lunchtime exercise classes, running or walking clubs, showers, or secure bike areas. Find out and use what is available where you work to help you stay fit.
- The occupational health and safety activities of your organization support healthy workplaces.
Supporting work–life balance
Consult your collective agreement to learn more about the following provisions:
- Bereavement leave
- Compassionate care leave
- Compressed work week or part-time employment, where possible (variable hours of work)
- Education leave and allowance
- Flexible hours of work
- Injury-On -Duty leave
- Leave with income averaging
- Leave with pay for family-related responsibilities
- Leave without pay for personal needs
- Leave without pay for relocation of a spouse
- Leave without pay for the care of family
- Maternity and parental allowance (includes adoption)
- Maternity and parental leave
- Maternity-related reassignment or leave
- Paid or unpaid volunteer or personal leave
Support When You Are Ill or Injured
When illnesses or injuries happen, there are supports to help you remain at work if you are able, or to return to work when it is safe, including identifying and implementing accommodations, where necessary.
The source of your benefits to help you recover will depend on whether your illness or injury is or is not related to work. Different processes apply.
- Sick leave
- Most public service employees can accumulate up to 112.5 hours, or 15 days, of paid sick leave per year. When these days are unused, they are referred to as “sick leave credits.” (Check your collective agreement for more information.)
- Most collective agreements allow sick leave credits to be carried over from year to year. Accumulating these credits is important. They will help you avoid an interruption in your income should you become seriously ill or injured and need to apply for disability insurance benefits.
- If you are ill or injured for non-work-related reasons, and you think you may need to be away from work for longer than you have sick leave credits for, you should apply for disability insurance promptly.
- If your illness or injury is related to work, income benefits are provided either:
- By your employer. Injury-on-Duty Leave, which is paid at your full salary for a period of time. Injury-on-Duty Leave cannot be granted unless your claim is approved by the provincial workers' compensation boards (in Quebec, La Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail du Québec).
- Directly by the provincial workers' compensation boards at between 75 and 90 percent of your net earnings.
- Disability insurance benefits may be payable over and above workers' compensation benefits. Speak to your compensation advisor for more information.
- If an illness or injury is not related to work and you are unable to work either temporarily or permanently, you may be eligible for disability benefits (at 70 per cent of your salary).
- Disability insurance benefits are not automatic. You must submit a claim, which will then be reviewed and either approved or denied by the insurance company.
- If your claim is approved, disability insurance benefits will start only after you have been off work for at least 91 days (13 weeks), or when all your sick leave credits are used up, whichever is longer.
- If you do not have enough sick leave credits to maintain your income for 13 weeks, you may also need to apply for Employment Insurance sickness benefits. Speak to your supervisor and compensation advisor to discuss your options.
- You cannot receive both Employment Insurance sickness benefits and disability insurance benefits for the same period.
Did you know?
If you are on leave without pay due to injury or illness, there may be implications for your pension and you may have to pay premiums for some of your extended health benefits. Contact your supervisor and compensation advisor and consult your Public Service Pension and Benefits Web Portal for more information, or for help in understanding your options.
A Checklist in Case of Illness or Injury
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible:
- If you are injured at work, or if your illness or injury is related to your work, make sure you advise your physician or health professional; and,
- Ask your physician or health professional to outline your functional abilities, limitations and/or restrictions, including whether you will need to be away from work, and for how long. This information will help you discuss with your supervisor a plan for your return to work. Please note that your supervisor does not need to know your diagnosis. This is confidential.
- Report that you are ill or injured to your supervisor as soon as you can:
- If your illness or injury is related to work, make sure you tell your supervisor immediately. He or she will then have three days to complete the report of injury that the Labour Program (at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) needs to refer a claim to the workers' compensation board or La Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail du Québec for processing.
- Even minor work-related injuries must be reported. Otherwise, if they later develop into a serious condition, you could have difficulty establishing a workers' compensation claim.
- Keep your supervisor informed of your situation. In cases of either work-related or non-work-related illness or injury, you should expect your supervisor to be in touch with you on a regular basis to follow your progress and plan for your return to work.
- Complete the necessary application and leave forms.
In all cases
- It is your supervisor's responsibility to ensure that you submit leave forms and verify that leave is being used appropriately.
- Your supervisor may ask you to provide a medical certificate if you are away from work. Keep a copy of the medical certificate and send the original to your supervisor.
If your illness or injury is related to work
- Once a claim is received by the provincial workers' compensation board, you may need to complete a workers' report of injury, which is a form provided by the provincial workers' compensation board.
- Your file will be assigned to an adjudicator (or case manager), who will accept or deny your claim, and determine your entitlement to benefits. It is important to keep this person advised of any changes in your treatment or in your health or work status.
- The provincial workers' compensation board will ask you to provide medical information to support the claim. This will include your diagnosis, any treatment your physician or health professional has prescribed, and your current level of functional ability. You may also be asked for a report from your physician, or the provincial workers' compensation board may provide you with forms to take to your physician or health professional for completion.
- If you have any difficulty obtaining the information requested, contact your adjudicator or case manager at the provincial workers' compensation board. They may be able to help.
If your illness or injury is not related to work
- If it appears you may be away from work for more than 13 weeks or for longer than your sick leave credits cover, speak to your compensation advisor about making a disability insurance claim.
- Submitting a claim is encouraged even if you and your physician believe that you may be well enough to return to work before you would receive these benefits. It can take some time for your insurance application to be processed, and you may need more time away from work than you expect. If you return to work and do not need the benefits, they can always be cancelled.
- Once your application is completed and received, the insurance provider will assign an adjuster or case manager to your claim. It is important to keep this person informed of any changes in your treatment, your health or work status, and any other disability benefits you are receiving such as Employment Insurance sickness benefits.
- The insurer's adjuster or case manager will ask you to provide medical information to support your claim. This will include your diagnosis, any treatment that your physician or health professional has prescribed, and your current level of functional ability. The insurance provider may also ask for a report from your physician, or it may provide you with forms to take to your physician or health professional to complete. It may also request that you undergo an independent medical examination, at the insurer's expense.
Also remember the following:
- You must provide your supervisor with information about your functional abilities, limitations and/or restrictions. This is essential to determine what accommodations you may need to remain at work, if you are able, or to return to work when it is safe to do so.
- In many cases, it may be possible to remain at work or return to work while recovering from your illness or injury. Your supervisor will work with you to provide reasonable accommodation measures to help you.
- Accommodation measures can include modified work, modified hours of work, telework, adjusting your work environment with specialized equipment, or providing support services. There are many options available.
- If you are away from work, keep your leave forms up-to-date and stay in contact with your supervisor. Knowing how you are doing will help you get the services you need and help in the planning for your safe return to work.
- Your privacy is important. Your employer is not entitled to ask you, or your physician or health professional, for your diagnosis, test results or details of your treatment. On the other hand, your supervisor will need to know your functional abilities, limitations or restrictions in performing your work. It is your responsibility to ensure that your supervisor has the information needed to plan for your return to work.
Did you know?
In some cases, it may be helpful to get an occupational health assessment. This will provide more detailed information about your functional abilities, limitations and/or restrictions. These evaluations may be requested by your supervisor or by your insurer.
- Participate in your treatment and in the return-to-work process:
- Your eligibility for income replacement and other benefits depends on your active participation in the treatment prescribed by your physician or health professional and in the return-to-work process.
- Your supervisor and disability management advisor, the insurer's case manager, physician or other health professional and union representative (if applicable) will work with you to find the best option for your situation and to coordinate accommodation or your return to work.
- Get your return-to-work plan in writing. This plan is the blueprint for helping you safely return to work with, where needed, the appropriate accommodations. The return-to-work plan should be established with the collaboration and agreement of both you and your supervisor prior to the date you plan to return. It should be flexible and include:
- Important dates such as, if you are off work, when you can be expected to return;
- Information about your functional abilities, limitations and/or restrictions;
- A return-to-work schedule recommended by your physician;
- Accommodations that will be in place, for example, modified hours, modified work, or special equipment or computer software;
- Training that may be needed for the accommodations, such as on how to use special equipment or software;
- A description of the work that you will be doing;
- The time period for which the plan will be in place; and
- Time frames for follow-up to ensure that the accommodation measures are working.
- If you are receiving disability insurance benefits, a return-to-work plan may form part of a rehabilitative program, which must be approved in advance and in writing by the insurer. Talk to your insurer and compensation advisor for more information.
Did you know?
Work is good for your health.
- Evidence shows that in most cases of employee illness or injury, returning to work as soon as it is safe to do so helps support recovery.
- People feel better when they are able to resume their normal daily routines.
- Having contact with colleagues and friends at work is an important source of emotional support and promotes a sense of well-being.
- Doing meaningful and rewarding work leads to better overall health.
For More Information
Information on wellness
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (provides information on ergonomics and occupational health and safety generally)
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Healthy Canadians (provides information and links on nutrition, product and drug safety, physical activity for children, adults aged 18 to 64, and seniors)
- Healthy Canadians—Kid's Health and Safety (provides information on healthy living for children)
Information on benefits
- Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada
- Benefits Information Kit (links to information on specific subjects, e.g., leave without pay)
- Disability Insurance—A Handful of Tips for PSAC Members
- Getting to Know Your Benefits
- Public Service Benefit Plans (overview of benefits plans)
- Public Service Health Care Plan
- Service Canada—Employment Insurance (EI) Compassionate Care Benefits
- Service Canada—Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits
- Service Canada—Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits
- Policy—Injury-On-Duty Leave
- Workers' Compensation (Labour)
Information on the duty to accommodate and return to work
- Canadian Human Rights Commission's A Guide for Managing the Return to Work
- Disability Management in the Federal Public Service
- Policy on Duty to Accommodate Persons With Disabilities in the Federal Public Service
Other important links
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