Determining Suitable Occupation

Policy

When the workplace parties have been unsuccessful in arranging a return to suitable and available work with the injury employer, the WSIB provides a work transition (WT) assessment to determine what specialized assistance a worker requires to enable a return to work with the injury employer or, if necessary, in a suitable occupation (SO) that is available in the labour market.

Following the assessment, the WSIB, in collaboration with the workplace parties (worker and employer), union representatives and other authorized representatives, determines a SO for the worker.

Guidelines

This document should be read in conjunction with 19-02-01, Work Reintegration Principles, Concepts and Definitions.

WT assessments

WT assessments are considered for workers

  • who have or likely have a permanent impairment
  • who are not capable of performing the pre-injury job
  • whose employer is unable to provide suitable and available work, or
  • whose employer has identified a job but it is unclear if the work is suitable.

In most cases, it is anticipated that the WT assessment will be provided six to nine months following the date of injury. If this is not possible, the WT assessment will occur as soon as the worker is functionally fit to return to suitable work.

Initially, the WSIB conducts its own assessment of transferable skills (i.e., an inventory of a worker’s job skills and experience). If this doesn’t result in the identification of a SO, the WSIB arranges for an external (WT) assessment.

The WT assessment assists the workplace parties and the WSIB to determine what services and activities are necessary to facilitate a worker’s successful WR. The worker is expected to be an active participant in identifying a SO that maximizes existing skills, interests, and aptitudes in order to restore, to the extent possible, the worker’s pre-injury earnings.

The WT assessments must look at all of the worker’s impairments/disabilities, including those that are work-related and non-work-related (e.g., including non-physical disabilities such as a learning disability) in accordance with human rights legislation.

All impairments/disabilities must be taken into account in identifying a SO for the worker.

Assessment reports

The assessment report includes

  • the worker’s vocational and functional profile
  • opinions on the suitability of work offered by the employer
  • recommendations for SOs, and
  • identified barriers to the worker’s participation in WT activities and suggestions as to how these barriers may be addressed.

The worker and authorized worker representative are given the opportunity to discuss the findings with the assessor. The WSIB, the worker and the employer (when participating) receive relevant copies of WT assessment documentation, see 21-02-03, Disclosure of Claim File Information to Employers (No Issue in Dispute).

WT re-assessments

In general, workers are provided with one assessment. A WT re-assessment may be appropriate where, for example, the work-related impairment significantly changes. If necessary, the WSIB may revise the original SO.

Suitable occupation (SO)

A SO represents a category of jobs suited to a worker’s transferable skills that are safe, consistent with the worker’s functional abilities, and that to the extent possible, restores the worker’s pre-injury earnings. The SO must be available with the injury employer or in the labour market.

Determining a SO

When determining a SO for a worker, every effort is made to

  • maintain the employment relationship between the worker and the injury employer by identifying appropriate occupations with the injury employer
  • provide for effective and meaningful input and choice on the part of the worker in identifying a SO, and
  • re-integrate workers into suitable and available work, all within a reasonable cost structure.

In determining a SO, the WSIB works with the worker and employer and considers

  • a worker’s functional abilities
  • a worker’s employment-related aptitudes, abilities, and interests
  • what jobs are available with the injury employer through direct placement, accommodation, or retraining
  • labour market trends, and the likelihood of the worker being able to secure and maintain work within the occupation with another employer, and
  • in accordance with applicable human rights legislation, any pre-existing non-work-related condition(s) (e.g., including non-physical disabilities such as a learning disability) a worker may have, as well as any other human rights-related accommodation requirements.

Direct to placement - SO

In some cases, the WSIB may identify a SO the worker already has the skills to perform.

In these cases, the WSIB may refer the worker directly for job placement support services and/or a Job Search Training (JST) program.

Where the SO is with the injury employer, the WSIB assists the workplace parties in establishing and monitoring the WT plan.

Where the SO requires reintegration with a new employer, the worker and the WSIB will work together to develop a WT plan that may include placement services.

Determining the availability of the SO

When identifying available work, the WSIB will identify SO opportunities as follows

  • SO with injury employer in local labour market
  • SO with injury employer in surrounding area to which the worker may reasonably be expected to commute
  • SO in the local labour market with a new employer
  • SO in broader labour market with a new employer.

The WSIB identifies labour market demand for the job or group of jobs on which the SO is based.

Local labour market

A local labour market is not limited to a particular city or town but also comprises any surrounding areas to which the worker might reasonably commute. In order to identify a reasonable commuting distance for a SO the WSIB takes into consideration the following factors which include but are not limited to

  • the worker’s commuting pattern in the pre-injury job
  • the expected travel requirements of the SO, and
  • the extent of the worker’s permanent impairment and any limitations on the worker being able to travel.

Broader labour market

If there are no SOs in the local labour market, the labour market may be expanded to the extent necessary to identify available SO opportunities.

Relocation

Relocation is a work reintegration option that may be considered when a SO is not available with the injury employer or in the local labour market. See 19-03-11, Relocation Services, for details.

Labour market information

The WSIB uses the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system, developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), and labour market information (LMI) from the Ontario government as the primary source of LMI to help identify SOs and WT services the worker may require.

Determining earnings for the SO

The earnings for the SO are an estimate of what the worker is capable of earning when re-entering the labour market in a SO. The earnings are established based on whether the WT plan

  • involves the worker acquiring a new skill set or entering a new field. If this is the case, updated entry-level wages are used to determine post-injury earnings, or
  • is designed to improve a worker’s existing or transferable job skills. If this is the case, updated mid-level wages are used to determine post-injury earnings.

Special cases

Maximizing young workers’ earnings potential through enhanced WT

Usually, a WT plan will be aimed at restoring a worker’s earning capacity in order to reduce or eliminate a wage loss resulting from a work-related injury/disease. In some cases, however, the worker can achieve higher earnings than pre-injury through an enhanced WT plan without significantly increasing the cost or duration of the plan. Decision-makers should compare the cost of a plan that restores pre-injury earnings with one that exceeds pre-injury earnings and approve the enhanced WT if the increased cost is not excessive, and if the plan stands a greater likelihood of success given the worker’s interests.

This concept may also allow the WSIB to consider a SO option, presented by a worker, which would exceed pre-injury earnings for a comparable investment in retraining.

The concept of an enhanced WT plan would apply to young workers who on the date of injury

  • are between the ages of 15-24
  • are not students, learners, or apprentices*
  • due to their permanent work-related impairment, are unable to return to their pre-injury job and/or have permanent work restrictions,
  • had low pre-injury earnings (i.e., less than 50% of the average industrial wage, see 18-01-02 Benefit Dollar Amounts - Accidents from 1998).

*Note

For workers who are students, learners or apprentices on the date of injury, please refer to 18-02-08, Determining Average Earnings-Exceptional Cases for pre-injury earnings to be restored through a SO and WT plan.

In these cases, decision-makers consider an enhanced SO and WT plan that maximizes their earnings potential (i.e., reducing focus on actual pre-injury earnings) based on the young worker’s overall skills, abilities, aptitudes and any identified job/career goals. The WSIB will attempt to mitigate, as much as possible, the potential loss of future earning capability caused by the work injury.

An enhanced WT should be considered for these young workers as soon as possible, when a work-related permanent impairment is evident (usually 6-9 months post-injury) and if they are unable to return to their pre-injury job.

The enhanced SO is identified for purposes of the WT plan only, not for the purposes of calculating LOE benefits during the plan.

Pre-injury, part-time employment

Where a worker was working part-time hours prior to the accident, the worker is not expected to either significantly increase the number of hours or obtain full-time employment post-injury in the identified SO.

However, a part-time worker who is interested in pursuing full-time employment post-injury may be supported in doing so (e.g., worker’s level of work-related impairment does not restrict full-time employment).

Post-injury, part-time employment

In cases where a worker was working full-time hours prior to the accident, but a return to full-time hours is not feasible due to the work-related injury, consideration may be given to a SO with part-time hours.

Part-time employment may be appropriate in cases where a worker is assessed as having only partial work capacity. Identifying a SO with part-time work hours may be the best WR option in cases where a worker has the skills and knowledge to do a part-time job with the pre-injury employer or a new employer.

Part-time employment may also be appropriate in cases where a worker is working part-time hours while at the same time receiving WT training on a part-time basis, with a view to providing the worker with skills to work full-time.

Application date

This policy applies to all decisions made on or after December 1, 2012.

Policy review schedule

This policy will be reviewed within five years of the application date.

Document History

This document replaces 19-03-03 dated July 15, 2011.

This policy was previously published as:
19-03-03 dated December 1, 2010
19-03-03 dated July 1, 2007.

References

Legislative Authority

Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, as amended
Sections 42, 43, 53

Minute

Administrative
#4, October 23, 2012, Page 496