Document name
Vocational Rehabilitation – Programs and Services
Document number
POL 23/2016

Effective date: November 1, 2016

Application: All workers receiving vocational rehabilitation programs and services as of the effective date.

Policy subject: Return to work and vocational rehabilitation

Purpose:

To establish guidelines for vocational rehabilitation programs and services.

DEFINITION

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Suitable productive employment means work that:

  • The customer can do given their employability assessment and transferable skills analysis.
  • The customer can functionally perform, given the medical restrictions imposed by the work injury and any non-compensable medical restrictions existing at the time of the injury.
  • Will not endanger the health and safety of the customer or others.
  • Contributes meaningfully to the operation of the business.

BACKGROUND

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  1. The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013 (the “Act”) directs that the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) will “consult and cooperate with workers and surviving dependent spouses in the development of rehabilitation plans intended to return workers or surviving dependent spouses to positions of independence in suitable productive employment.” (Section 19(1)(d)).
  2. The Act directs that “a worker shall:
    1. Take all reasonable action to mitigate the worker’s loss of earnings resulting from an injury; and
    2. If the circumstances require, co-operate with the board in the development of a rehabilitation plan that is intended to return the worker to a position of independence in suitable productive employment.” (Section 51).
  3. The WCB may take any measure it considers necessary or expedient:
    1. To assist an injured worker in returning to work.
    2. To assist in lessening or removing any barriers resulting from the worker’s injury; or
    3. To encourage a dependent spouse of a deceased worker to become self-sufficient. (Section 111)
  4. The WCB may “expend moneys from the [injury] fund for any expenses incurred in the administration of this Act” (Section 115).
  5. The Saskatchewan Employment Act provides guidelines for an employer’s duty to accommodate an injured worker’s return to work (Section 2-41).
  6. The WCB utilizes a multidisciplinary Case Management Team approach for developing vocational rehabilitation plans intended to return workers to positions of independence in suitable productive employment.

POLICY

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  1. Where the effects of a work injury result in permanent restrictions that preclude or complicate a return to pre-injury employment, the WCB will provide a worker with the appropriate services and programs to:
    1. Facilitate a return to suitable, productive employment or a status of employability at comparable earning potential with the pre-injury level; and where necessary.
    2. Address issues of quality of life and independence.
  2. A worker is considered employable when the following criteria are met:
    1. The worker has acquired the skills and abilities to competitively pursue suitable productive employment.
    2. The work can be performed without endangering the worker’s safety and the safety of others; and
    3. The work is available in the worker’s immediate locale or in a location to which the worker may reasonably commute or relocate.
  3. Varying with the individual circumstances of the worker, the goal of vocational rehabilitation is to:
    1. Return to previous employment.
    2. Return to alternate employment; or
    3. Retrain for a new occupation.

Individualized Vocational Plan (IVP)

  1. Developed in consultation with the worker, the IVP is a written agreement representing a plan co-signed by the WCB and the worker to meet the vocational goal. The worker’s employer may also be consulted, when applicable.
  2. The IVP outlines the suitable short and long-term objectives for re-employment, and the selection of programs and services required to meet those objectives. Specifically, the IVP outlines the costs associated with implementation, including:
    1. Allowable expenses.
    2. Any necessary modifications to the workplace to ensure accessibility and independence.
    3. Ongoing entitlement to compensation benefits, and
    4. An estimation of earnings capacity.
  3. As part of the IVP, and in accordance with Section 51 of the Act, workers are expected to actively seek employment during interruptions in their vocational training program for periods in excess of eight weeks.
  4. The WCB may assess a worker as employable for periods less than eight weeks, if individual circumstances of the worker (e.g., age, location, suitable employment, etc.) and other conditions permit. If the worker is considered employable during an interruption in training that is less than eight weeks, written justification will be included with the IVP.

Employability Assessment and Transferable Skills Analysis

  1. As a starting point for planning, an employability assessment and transferable skills analysis will be completed. This is an assessment of the worker’s individual circumstances that impact the selection of an appropriate vocational objective. In general, the following factors are considered:
    1. The compensable and non-compensable work restrictions (obtained from medical and or psychological documentation).
    2. The functional requirements for performance of the return to work position (pre-injury or otherwise).
    3. Prior education and training.
    4. Employment history, job descriptions and duties, and wages.
    5. Assessment of transferable skills, aptitudes, interests, abilities; and
    6. Other factors including but not limited to geographical location, ability/practicality to relocate, labor market opportunities, criminal record, etc.

Programs and Services

  1. Each case will be judged on its merits to determine which services and programs are available to the worker. However, with consideration to the employability assessment and transferable skills analysis, the WCB considers re-employment measures from a Hierarchy of Objectives (Appendix A).
  2. The first and foremost objective is to consider a return to the pre-injury employer. Graduated return to work or modified duties may be explored, either temporary or permanent. Any necessary modifications of the physical work environment such as providing specialized equipment or changing the workplace layout may be provided to support a safe and timely return to work (POL 04/2015, Modifications – Home, Vehicle and Work).
  3. Where a worker cannot return to the pre-injury job because of the compensable restrictions, some type of alternate work with the pre-injury employer must be explored that is within the worker’s functional capabilities. A worker’s transferable skills, qualifications or alternate work experience for the new position may be assessed, and where appropriate, on-the-job or formal training programs (academic or technical) will be provided.
  4. If the pre-injury employer is unable to provide a suitable re-employment option (i.e., cannot accommodate in any capacity), the preceding programs may be used for returning the worker to the workforce with another employer in the same or different industry. The former would apply when workers are displaced because of the compensable injury; limited assistance such as job search benefits may be all that is necessary if the worker is able to pursue the same type of work (POL 17/2010, Termination of Compensation Benefits – Notice, will apply). If a worker’s restrictions preclude returning to the pre-injury employment in any capacity, the WCB will offer appropriate academic, technical or on-the-job training necessary for obtaining employment in a new occupation. Relocation (temporary or permanent) may be considered to access these programs or to increase employment opportunities (POL 02/2014, Vocational Rehabilitation – Moving Allowance).
  5. Self-employment ventures will only be approved where all other conventional re-employment objectives have been exhausted, or it is the only viable option for reaching maximum pre-injury earnings (PRO 11/2014, Vocational Rehabilitation – Self-Employment Plans, will apply). Generally, this will apply to those workers in remote areas where employment and education opportunities are scarce and relocation is not an option (e.g., family obligations), the plan is reasonably cost-effective compared with other return to work alternatives and there is a high probability of success.
  6. To enable participation in vocational programs and to address issues of quality of life, the WCB will:
    1. Reimburse appropriate travel and sustenance expenses (POL 39/2010, Expenses – Travel and Sustenance).
    2. Provide equipment and tools required by selected programs or employment opportunities (POL 05/2004, Vocational Rehabilitation – Equipment and Tools and;
    3. Consider modifications to the vehicle or residence made necessary by the compensable injury (POL 04/2015, Modifications – Home, Vehicle and Work).

Discontinuing Vocational Programs and Services

  1. Programs and services will be discontinued where:
    1. A worker successfully completes the IVP.
    2. A worker has non-medical re-employment barrier(s) unrelated to the work injury (e.g., due to a criminal record, loss of a driver’s license) that limit all suitable productive employment options.
  2. The WCB will determine any benefits payable in accordance with POL 01/2018, Benefits – Long-Term Earnings Loss.
  3. If a worker fails to comply or does not demonstrate active involvement in re-employment, the WCB may reduce or suspend benefits (POL 15/2016, Suspension of Benefits).
  4.  If a worker is considered employable at the successful completion of the IVP, but has not obtained employment, the WCB will offer additional job search benefits. POL 17/2010, Termination of Compensation Benefits – Notice or POL 02/2014, Vocational Rehabilitation – Moving Allowance will apply.

Special Services

  1. In addition to medical aid or access to health care providers, the WCB may provide a personal care allowance to eligible workers to reduce or eliminate barriers to daily living, including various aspects of hygiene, dressing, mobility challenges or supervision (POL 10/2014, Allowance - Personal Care).

Attachments

Attachments
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