Return-to-work Programs for Employers
The best way to meet your legal obligations and provide fair treatment to injured workers is to develop a return-to-work program that defines the kinds of tasks performed in your workplace. These tasks can then be modified to accommodate a worker’s physical restrictions. This program should contain:
- Return-to-work policies and procedures for your operation.
- Job duties that can be done by a worker with medical restrictions while they recover from their injuries or illnesses. Your injured worker should give you information from their health care provider about the work duties they can perform and the date you can expect them to go back to the work they were doing before the injury. The information will help you arrange temporary duties until they’re ready to return to their usual duties and workload.
- How tasks can be re-distributed or bundled to take into account the safety concerns and abilities of the other workers.
Transitional return to work for workers who are temporarily disabled includes either:
- Maintenance return to work – Changes to hours of work and/or work activities so the injured worker can keep working while they wait for treatment or surgery.
- Graduated return to work – Gradual increases in work hours or work activities to help disabled workers return to their pre-injury jobs.
A return-to-work plan for an individual worker may include:
- A review of the job duties the injured worker can still do.
- New job duties the injured worker can do with their restrictions.
- Training for new job duties or other jobs in your company.
- A list of changes to the worker’s workspace.
- Follow-up services to help both you and your worker adjust to your new arrangement.
If an injury stops a worker from going back to work with you, the WCB can help them prepare to find suitable work with another employer. However, the WCB is not responsible for finding the worker another job.
A worker’s return-to-work process
Return-to-work planning should begin immediately, when reasonable. Even if an injured worker is in hospital or confined to home, the partners can begin to take responsibility for their roles in the injured worker’s recovery and return-to-work process.
Stay in touch with your worker, their health care provider, union representative and the WCB to set up and follow a return-to-work plan to get the worker back on the job as soon as it’s medically safe to do so.
Work with the WCB to develop a return-to-work program. With this advance planning in place, you will know exactly what to do if and when an injury happens on the job. Once a worker is injured, you should:
- Report the injury to the WCB within five days of becoming aware of the injury.
- Initiate and lead return-to-work planning.
- Use the list of restrictions from the health care provider to adjust job duties so the worker can return to work while recovering.
- Continue to adjust the worker’s duties as their condition improves, based on updates provided by the health care provider.
For help with return-to-work programs for your workplace, contact the WCB’s prevention department. Employers with existing return-to-work programs can have them approved by the WCB by completing an audit questionnaire.