Gearing disability management to the realities of working life

By Annette Gibbs
|CHRR, Guide to Pensions & Benefits|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

Employees are staying at home to heal in record numbers, whether it’s from physical maladies as a result of illness or accident or other conditions caused by family or work-related pressures. According to Statistics Canada, full-time staff took an average of 8.5 non-vacation days off in 2001.This was up from eight days in 2000, and an increase from 7.5 days in 1997.

Employers have responded to these worsening statistics with a variety of disability management models focusing on everything from absenteeism reporting and aggressive claims management to medical and vocational intervention. But as costs continue to climb and the burden of absent workers takes its toll on productivity, morale and customer service, employers are looking for better solutions.

The sooner a person can return to a normal routine, including work, the more likely she is to have a successful recovery. In addition to a well-communicated policy on absence reporting, early intervention is key. But an early intervention program that focuses too narrowly on the medical impairment on which the disability claim is based may mean the real barriers to a return to work are not being addressed.