“We at [Company Name] value the contribution you make to our workplace. We understand that your current injury might mean that you are not able to perform your usual job duties. We want to assure you that we will work with you and your doctor on finding suitable light or alternate duties that you can do while recovering. Our goal is to keep you working in a safe and sustainable capacity but in order to do that, we need to understand what your doctor (or physio) recommends we consider when assigning work duties. If you could have the doctor complete this form and give to you to bring back to us, that will help us ensure that the work assigned helps with your recovery and does not aggravate your injury. Participating in light duties will help ensure that your pay is not interrupted.”
It is a collaborative team process linking an employer with workers, labour union representatives (if applicable), and service providers to prevent disability or minimize its impact through early intervention, support, and resource coordination to optimize recovery and facilitate prompt return to work.
Research tells us that the longer a worker is away from work, the less likely it is that they will return. Offering early return to work opportunities to your workers helps reduce claims costs, avoids the loss of skilled and experienced workers, meets your human rights obligations to fulfill the duty to accommodate and facilitates faster recovery.
Alternate work duties – these are duties outside of the worker’s usual job;
Modified work duties – these are duties within the worker’s usual scope of work, but the work demands have been altered temporarily to align with the worker’s functional abilities and level of recovery
Gradual return to work – this is a plan of progressively increasing hours, days and tasks until the worker has resumed full hours and duties
Yes, if you have alternate duties available and the work is required to be done on different days or during different hours from what the worker would normally be scheduled for, then a temporary change in schedule is acceptable.
While it is ideal to obtain medical clearance from a physician or physical therapist, this is not required. If you have work available that does not put the worker at risk for further injury or delay in recovery, then you can expect the worker to participate. If there are any questions regarding what is suitable, review the WorkSafeBC document “Typical Physical Limitations for Common Injuries” on the resources page or the WSBC website and discuss further with the WSBC case manager. Generally, sedentary work is always suitable.
It is advisable, that whenever practicable, workers should attend treatment session and doctor’s appointments outside of their scheduled work hours. The exception to this would be any specialist visit, diagnostic test appointment (such as CT Scan, Ultrasound, MRI), or other appointment scheduled by WSBC (such as an intake appointment to an occupational rehabilitation program).
The worker is SUPERNUMERARY (an extra worker) and continues to be paid by WSBC; or
The worker is receiving Section 30 Benefits – in this case, the worker is paid by the employer for hours worked and missing wages are topped up by WSBC. WSBC will send a request to the employer every 2 weeks to collect information on how much was paid to the worker in order to avoid any overpayment by WSBC.
In this case, the employer should contact the WSBC case manager to discuss the work duties available and request consideration for Section 34.11 (where there is available work and the worker chooses not to participate, then wage loss benefits might not be paid by WSBC).
The doctor and/or other medical practitioner (such as a physiotherapist) will determine the return to work plan according to the employee’s level of recovery and readiness to do tasks associated with the employee’s usual work and schedule. The employer has the final say as to whether the plan proposed works in the current work environment. Prior to the start of the gradual return is where the employer has the most input for the plan to ensure it will work in your environment.
It is understood that there can be a temporary saturation point for gradual returns. It is important to talk with the worker’s case manager at WorkSafeBC about this situation. The start of a gradual return to work can be delayed if necessary.
The usual time frame for a gradual return is 2-6 weeks. If the proposed plan is longer than the employer is able to support, then it will be important to discuss with the worker’s case manager at WorkSafeBC the length of gradual return to work you can support.
For example, if the proposed plan is 6 weeks and you have certain factors (supervisor going on vacation, end of seasonal work, another GRTW starting) that would limit the plan to 4 weeks, then a conversation with WorkSafeBC about possibly having the employee continue in rehab activities outside of work until he/she can be successful with a shorter GRTW plan is recommended.
Close monitoring of the worker on a gradual return to work is important. If the employee is not able to tolerate either the hours established or the tasks assigned, have the worker visit his/her physician for reassessment of injury status and associated return to work plan. Ensure the WorkSafeBC case manager is aware of any challenges with the return to work plan.
A complete gradual return to work from start to anticipated end provides the worker with a goal to work towards and a date for the employer to expect the worker back to his/her usual job and schedule.
Gradual return to work plans provided in weekly pieces can be hard to manage. Speak with the worker and request he/she ask the doctor provide a full plan from start to finish. If no success with this approach, speak with the WorkSafeBC case manager about the plan and associated timeline.
Did the employee have pre-planned vacation and associated plans that cannot be changed (for example, plane tickets and accommodations booked)? If so, the vacation can be granted as is but it will be important to advise WorkSafeBC of these plans. The employee would then collect vacation pay for the time and the claim with WorkSafeBC would be interrupted/suspended for the duration of vacation. Upon return from vacation it will be important for the worker to see his/her physician for an assessment of readiness to either resume working full time and duty or to resume the gradual return to work.
If there were no previous plans/booking of vacation, then it is at the employer’s discretion whether to grant vacation or not. Keep in mind, interrupting a worker’s rehabilitation and return to work can negatively impact the momentum and delay the full time/duty return to work.