Work Reintegration Principles, Concepts, and Definitions

General guiding principles in work reintegration  

The Work Reintegration (WR) policies represent an integrated set of guidelines aimed at ensuring that a worker’s opportunities for successful WR are optimized in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (the Act) and applicable human rights legislation. The following principles underpin the legislation and policy

  • appropriate and early WR that maintains the dignity and productivity of a worker plays an important role in the worker’s rehabilitation and recovery
  • where recovery and WR barriers occur, they must be addressed quickly through early support and intervention
  • a worker’s prospects for successful WR both in the short- and long-term are often best achieved by maximizing opportunities for return to work with the injury employer, including retraining for a suitable occupation (SO) with that employer
  • a worker should be offered programs that are of a high quality and practical, and the WSIB must provide the worker with meaningful input and choice in relation to the programs offered, and
  • WR is often part of the recovery plan.

Guidelines

Specific working principles that guide successful WR

 The following principles guide the WSIB’s provision of WR assistance and services

  • WR is a process
  • integration of effort and co-operation of the workplace parties (workers and employers), as well as the treating health professional, union representatives, other authorized representatives and the WSIB
  • active recovery in the workplace
  • accessible, timely and intensive services
  • goal-oriented work transition (WT) plans
  • leveraging statutory WR obligations (i.e., co-operation and re-employment), and
  • the WR goal.

WR process

The WSIB views WR as a process, consisting of a series of activities along a timeline which generally

  • starts as soon as the employer learns that a worker has suffered a work-related injury/disease
  • continues throughout the work-related injury/disease recovery and impairment period, and
  • adapts to changes as they arise.

The WR process also includes the stay at work process which is triggered when workers do not lose any time from work, or return to work soon after the injury, but may require accommodated work during the recovery due to the work-related impairment. In these cases, the workplace parties are expected to put in place a plan that achieves a return to the pre-injury job and/or restores pre-injury earnings where appropriate.

Integration of effort and co-operation

The WSIB’s role in WR is to provide the necessary WR services to support the efforts of the workplace parties in achieving successful WR outcomes.

The workplace parties are primarily responsible for planning WR, identifying WR opportunities, and identifying WR issues in the workplace. The workplace parties are required to co-operate and fulfill all of their WR obligations.

In those cases where education, case management, dispute resolution, and a warning have failed to bring either or both workplace parties into compliance with their required WR activities, the WSIB may

  • reduce or suspend the worker’s benefits, and/or
  • levy a penalty on the employer that is equivalent to the costs of providing benefits to the worker, or that is equivalent to the worker’s net average earnings for the year preceding the injury.

Off work cases

In cases where the injury temporarily prevents the worker from returning to any type of work, the focus of the WSIB’s case management activities is on the worker’s clinical recovery and planning for early and safe WR with the injury employer wherever possible. WR activities will commence when the worker is able to return to suitable or pre-injury work with the employer.

Stay at work cases

In cases where the worker has remained at work or has returned to work soon after the injury, but

  • is experiencing a wage loss due to the work-related injury/disease, or
  • there is evidence of a permanent impairment (present or likely), or
  • job suitability concerns exist,

the workplace parties are expected to work together to monitor the worker’s recovery and progress towards the final WR goal. The WSIB will review these cases as appropriate.

WSIB’s direct role/services in supporting WR

The WSIB actively supports the activities of the workplace parties in their efforts to achieve the best WR outcome possible. The key services of the WSIB in the WR process include: health recovery support, education and advice, case management, WR co-ordination, accommodation assistance, dispute resolution, and ensuring compliance with co-operation and/or re-employment obligations, and WT services.

The WSIB recognizes that small businesses may not have the same knowledge, capability, and/or resources as larger businesses in the WR process. As a result, small businesses may require increased assistance and intervention from the WSIB to achieve positive WR outcomes.

The 12th week active support

The WSIB meets with the workplace parties at the worksite no later than 12 weeks after the date of injury if the workplace parties have been unsuccessful in arranging the worker’s return to suitable and available work—even though the worker is functionally capable of suitable work. The WSIB’s aim is to facilitate an early and safe WR outcome.

Health recovery support

Treating health professionals support WR by, among other activities, providing functional abilities information. Where recovery barriers are identified in any phase of a case (with a focus on identifying barriers in the early stages of a case), the WSIB will proactively obtain medical support (such as the Regional Evaluation Centres and Specialty Clinics) to address the recovery barrier in discussion with the worker’s treating health professional.

WT services

WT services are designed to assist the workplace parties to find suitable and available WR with the injury employer. The WSIB may use a range of services including an assessment and plan for facilitating WT with the injury employer. These services are also available to support the worker’s re-entry in the labour market in a suitable occupation (SO).

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.

Dispute resolution services

The WSIB provides dispute resolution services in cases where

  • one or both of the workplace parties notify the WSIB of any difficulty or dispute in the WR process, or
  • the WSIB, on its own initiative, identifies obstacles in the workplace parties’ WR activities and progress.

Such WR obstacles include but are not limited to

  • difficulties regarding compliance with the applicable co-operation and/or re-employment obligations, and
  • disagreements respecting the suitability or availability of offered work.

Other WR support services

Other WR support services provided by the WSIB include

  • proactive education
  • case management support
  • accommodation assistance (if employer qualifies), and
  • disability management program advice.

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Concepts and definitions

WR goal

The workplace parties should strive to return the worker to work that he/she has the skills to perform, is consistent with the worker’s functional abilities, and that, to the extent possible, restores the worker’s pre-injury earnings. Ideally, the worker will return to the pre-injury work.

Accommodation means any modification to the work or the workplace, including but not limited to reduced hours, reduced productivity requirements, and/or the provision of assistive devices, that results in work becoming available that is consistent with the worker’s functional abilities and that respects applicable human rights legislation. For more information on an employer’s duty to accommodate, see 19-02-02, Responsibilities of the Workplace Parties in Work Reintegration.

Suitable work

Suitable work means post-injury work (including the worker’s pre-injury job) that is safeproductiveconsistent with the worker’s functional abilities, and that, to the extent possible, restores the worker’s pre-injury earnings.

Safe

When considering whether an offer of work is suitable, the workplace parties and the WSIB consider whether the work is safe, i.e., whether

  • the work poses a health or safety risk to the worker (e.g., should not cause re-injury or a new injury), to co-workers, or to third parties
  • the work is performed at a worksite that is covered by either the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) or the Canada Labour Code, and the worker has the functional ability to travel safely to and from the proposed worksite.

Productive

When considering whether an offer of work is suitable, the workplace parties and the WSIB consider whether the work is productive, i.e., whether it provides an objective benefit to the employer’s business.

NOTE

The term “work” is used broadly and may include the combining of tasks/duties which together may constitute temporary work, as well as a short-term training program which leads to a job with the injury employer.

Consistent with the worker’s functional abilities

A job is considered consistent with the worker’s functional abilities when the tasks and/or duties associated with the job can be performed within the reported physical/cognitive capabilities of the worker.

Suitable Occupation

A SO represents a category of jobs suited to a worker’s transferable skills that are safe, productive, 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.

Available work as it relates to injury employer

Available work is work that exists with the injury employer at the pre-injury worksite, or at a comparable worksite arranged by the employer.

The factors the WSIB examines to determine if suitable work is “available” at the pre-injury worksite, or at another worksite, include but are not limited to

  • whether a job vacancy has been posted, advertised or otherwise communicated, or
  • evidence of hirings or transfers that occur on or after the date the worker is fit for suitable work.

When determining if suitable work is available in a unionized environment, the WSIB strives to respect the terms of the collective agreement whenever possible. In certain circumstances, the WSIB may determine that to meet their obligations, the workplace parties may need to adapt or modify the operation of specific provisions of the collective agreement.

In cases where a worker has a permanent impairment (present or likely), and

  • his or her clinical condition is stable, and
  • he or she is unable to return to the pre-injury job,

the workplace parties and the WSIB consider whether the work has reasonable prospects of being available in the longer term.

Available work as it relates to the labour market

Available means that employment must exist and be in demand in the labour market to the extent that the worker has a reasonable prospect of obtaining employment.

Employable

Refers to a worker having the necessary skill and training to be capable of obtaining and performing full-time or part-time employment on a regular basis in the labour market. Factors that influence a worker's employability include but are not limited to

  • level of education/training (including special certificates/licenses)
  • transferable skills/aptitudes and work experience
  • work-related impairment(s)/disabilities, and
  • other non-work-related impairment(s)/disabilities (e.g., including non-physical disabilities such as a learning disability).

Special cases—occupational diseases (OD), disablements and recurrences

In cases where lost time is incurred long after the injury or illness, such as OD cases, disablements and recurrences, WR activities will commence as soon as the worker is functionally fit to return to work. In such cases, all services normally provided by the WSIB—such as WT services, dispute resolution services, and other WR support services—will continue to be provided whenever possible.

For some of these cases, the worker may be working with a new employer at the time that lost time is incurred. If so, the new employer is encouraged to provide any necessary accommodations, as it is unlikely that a co-operation or re-employment obligation continues to apply to the injury employer.

General policy model

This document should be read in conjunction with the following individual policies aimed at achieving successful WR.

  1. 19-02-02, Responsibilities of the Workplace Parties in Work Reintegration
  2. 19-03-03, Determining Suitable Occupation
  3. 19-03-05, Work Transition Plan
  4. 19-03-06, Work Transition Expenses
  5. 19-03-11, Relocation Services

Construction industry

The WSIB’s WR policies, with the exception of the specific provisions dealing with re-employment, apply to all workers and employers, including those in the construction industry. The WSIB’s re-employment policies applicable to the construction industry can be found in the 19-05 section of the Operational Policy manual (OPM). When references appear in the WR policies to the Act, the corresponding legislative reference for the construction industry is Ontario Regulation 35/08.

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 19-02-01 dated July 15, 2011.

This policy was previously published as:
19-02-01 dated December 1, 2010

References

Legislative Authority

Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, as amended
Sections 21, 23, 33, 37, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 77, 86

O. Reg. 35/08

Minute

Administrative
#2, October 23, 2012, Page 495