Return to Work: Three Part Series If we want money for rent, food, electricity, and other things, then we need to work and get paid. It’s a simple enough equation: you need money coming in before money can go out. But, it’s a pretty fragile concept that relies on many aspects of employment, housing, health, and other costs of living. It also requires a person to be physically and mentally capable of work. Workplace injuries and illnesses happen every day. Everything about the way you live your life – from going to work, to doing regular chores, even getting dressed – can get more difficult in an instant. And many of these workers need assistance with accommodation to stay at their job. The Return to Work and accommodation process is essentially the same whether you suffer a work-related injury/illness or non-occupational injury/illness. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach when an employee Returns to Work; it is a collaborative effort that evolves over time. Your Union Rep, Workers’ Comp Rep, Health & Safety Rep, and Union Steward(s) all work toward assisting members through the Return to Work process. The UFCW Locals 175 & 633 Workers’ Compensation Department presents a threepart series to identify the key elements of the Return to Work process.
Part One: Protecting your Income The first thing an injured or ill worker should consider is where money will come from going forward. Members should always make themselves familiar with the types of income replacement available to them. Some of these items come through your collective agreement, through filing a claim with the WSIB, and through government assistance. Examples of income protection include: • • • • • •
Short-term Disability Insurance (STD); Long-term Disability Insurance (LTD); WSIB Loss of Earnings (LOE) Benefits; Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness Benefit (15 weeks) Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Canada Pension Plan Disability Program
The ultimate goal would be to achieve seamless income protection when you’re injured or ill. Unfortunately, seamless income protection is not available to many workers. These gaps in protection can leave injured or ill workers even more vulnerable to negative experiences and outcomes.
What protections are in place for you and your co-workers in your time of need? Not all workers qualify for public assistance or have coverage in their collective agreements, which leaves them vulnerable to loss of income when off due to injury or illness. In these cases, it might be best to consider an early and safe return to work accommodation to help restore your income. Just be mindful that any return to work plan respects your functional abilities, and does not jeopardize your health or recovery. There are laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination, regardless of how someone is injured or made ill, specifically when it comes to employment. • • • • • •
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom Canadian Human Rights Act Ontario Human Rights Code Workplace Safety and Insurance Act Ontario Health and Safety Act Canada Labour Code
Get to know the Union resources available to you and how to contact your Union Rep for timely assistance. The Union can assist with return to work accommodations, understanding your benefits, as well as dealing with the employer, the WSIB and insurance companies. Visit ufcw175.com and download “Wage Replacement Options” and stay tuned for Part Two: The Return to Work Process in the Winter 2019 issue of Checkout. Fall 2019