A return-to-work plan sets out measures to let an employee resume work safely over a fixed period. Employees who experience a work-related injury may require a leave of absence to seek medical treatment or recover. This time off results in a lost-time claim. According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, there were over 277,000 lost-time claims in 2021.
Employees are entitled to and require adequate time to recover after a work-related injury. Work-related injuries vary, but many stem from overlooked issues like fatigue. Employees are obligated to return to work in a timely manner once they can work safely. Employers must work with involved parties to design a return-to-work plan to help the employee resume work safely after taking a leave due to a workplace injury.
When to Plan an Employee’s Return to Work
Employers should prioritize getting employees back to work reasonably quickly. While taking the time to rest and recover is essential, unnecessarily long absences reduce the likelihood that the employee will resume work. Employees who are absent from work due to an injury for six months have only a 50% chance of returning to their full-time, pre-injury employment if they do not maintain a connection to their workplace. Offering support to the employee throughout their leave can help in developing an effective return-to-work plan and reduce the chances of experiencing turnover.
On the other hand, offering a safe and supportive return to work can help the employee’s physical and mental recovery, prevent long-term disability, and maintain their overall wellbeing. Employers also benefit by retaining skilled employees.
Creating a Return-to-Work Plan
When developing a return-to-work plan for an employee, you’ll need:
- Clear communication between you, the employee, the workers’ compensation board (WCB) representative, and the employee’s healthcare provider. All plans require collaboration and communication through all stages of the process.
- The demands of the employee’s pre-injury job (and any other roles you are considering for them) as well as the employee’s current functional abilities and limitations, if any. You may determine that the employee can only return to their pre-injury job with modifications or that they require alternate work.
- Flexibility regarding the employee’s scheduled medical appointments, treatment, and recovery.
Return-to-work plans are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each plan needs to be personalized to an employee’s circumstances. While each plan is unique, the process for developing them follows the same steps. Learn how to develop effective return-to-work plans, reintegrate employees, and monitor the plan’s success in our FREE Guide to Return-to-Work Plans After a Workplace Injury.
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