Government modernizing disability management system

'Exceedingly high levels of absenteeism unsustainable'

The federal government is planning to tackle high rates of employee absenteeism, while strengthening support for ill and injured public servants, with a new initiative meant to modernize outdated disability insurance plans.

The federal public service has an annual absenteeism rate of 18.2 days, including paid and unpaid leave. That is two-and-a-half times the private sector rate of 6.7 days, said the government.

“The public service suffers from exceedingly high levels of absenteeism, which is unsustainable for any employer looking to run a high-performing and productive workforce,” said Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board.

Under the current system, it is difficult for ill and injured employees to reintegrate back into the workforce so, to better manage employee illness, the government intends to overhaul the disability management system, which has remained virtually unchanged for the past 40 years.

“It’s time we fix an inefficient system that doesn’t work for employees, who need the support, or for Canadian taxpayers, who are footing the bill,” he said. “The workplace has changed dramatically since 1970 and we need to find a more effective and efficient way to help employees get back to work as quickly as possible.”

The government will work with stakeholders and bargaining agents to introduce a short-term disability program to support employees through illness. About 87 per cent of Canadian employers provide short-term disability insurance, said the government, making the federal government one of the few large employers that does not offer coverage for short-term illness.

At the same time, the long-term disability plan, introduced in 1970, will be overhauled to provide seamless integration between the short-term disability program and long-term disability insurance. The current system provides benefits coverage after 13 weeks of illness.

“We need a 21st century disability management system for a 21st century workforce,” said Clement. “The current system will be replaced with a new, streamlined system that ensures active case management and comprehensive support for the ill and injured.”

The moves are part of the government’s efforts to reform the public service, encourage greater productivity and ensure Canadians are receiving the best value for their tax dollars. This follows on the recent introduction of a new, mandatory system to track employee performance in the public sector. Other reforms include 50-50 cost-sharing for public sector pensions and the elimination of voluntary severance for public servants.

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