A Return to Work (RTW) plan is an individualized plan for the injured worker that considers their functional limitations, rehabilitation or treatment plan, and the availability of suitable work. The plan assists them in either remaining at work or returning to work as soon as medically and safely as possible.
What is a RTW plan?
Can I use the RTW program for non-work related injuries?
Yes, the duty to accommodate under the Human Rights Act applies to both work and non-work related injuries. However, the WSCC’s involvement is only with work-related injuries.
When is the RTW program triggered?
Start the process immediately after the occurrence or identification of a workplace injury, illness, or disability.
Who develops the RTW plan?
A RTW plan is a team effort involving the supervisor, worker, union (if applicable), health care providers, and the WSCC. The plan varies from worker to worker and takes into consideration the type of injury, the recovery process, and the availability of suitable work.
Does an injured worker have to accept the suitable work?
If an injured worker refuses the suitable work, they need to give reasons why, which the WSCC will review and consider. If the WSCC disagrees with the injured worker and believes the work is suitable, the injured worker must return to work. If the worker still chooses not to accept the work, they risk suspension or termination of their benefits. If the WSCC agrees with the reasons the injured worker provides as to why the work is not suitable, the WSCC will help the employer identify alternative suitable work.
Who decides when an injured worker should return to work?
The WSCC receives medical reports that include functional abilities and prognosis information from health care providers. The employer receives information on the injured worker’s functional abilities to determine suitable work. The WSCC analyzes this information to determine when the worker is fit to safely return to work.
Can an injured worker return to work before they are fully recovered?
Yes! The RTW program helps the injured worker get back to work as soon as safe and medically possible.
What if an employer receives conflicting functional abilities information?
Contact the WSCC to discuss.
What should the employer do if the injured worker starts working outside their limitations and restrictions?
Immediately approach the worker and explain concerns for their health and safety. If the worker says they can do those duties because of faster than anticipated healing, contact the WSCC and get current medical information that clears them to perform those activities.
Why does the employer need to document everything?
Documentation provides an accessible summary of actions and discussions, the injury, and the RTW process. This helps ensure follow-up on actions and provides a record of events if someone leaves the organization. The documentation can assist as evidence for reviews, appeals, or human rights tribunals if needed.
What should I do if a worker returns to work with no restrictions but later requests reduced hours?
Refer to the worker’s Functional Abilities form. If the worker has no restrictions there is no reason that they should need reduced hours. However, medical conditions do change. Contact the WSCC to make sure that there is no new medical information that affects the worker’s functional abilities.
Can I lay off the worker?
To satisfy the duty to accommodate, you must accommodate to the point of undue hardship. This involves looking at modifying the job methods and tools as well as looking at other available job positions that meet the worker’s skills, education, and functional abilities. Communication with the WSCC Case Manager is important as they may also be able to assist you and the worker.
What does it mean when a health practitioner states that the worker is fit for limited, light, medium, or heavy physical demands?
The WSCC refers to the following definitions:
- Limited – loads up to 5kg (11lbs)
- Light – activities involve handling loads between 5kg-10kg (11-22lbs)
- Medium – activities involve handling loads between 10kg-20kg (22-44lbs)
- Heavy – activities involve handling loads over 20kg (greater than 44lbs)
If you have any questions regarding what physical demands the worker is capable of performing and their limitations and restrictions contact the WSCC.
How long does the employer need to provide a RTW plan for?
Everyone’s recovery is different, and timelines differ depending upon the injuries or illnesses and individual circumstances. The WSCC use anticipated recovery guidelines for different injuries to guide rehabilitation expectations and provide prognosis and recovery based on this information.
Who at the WSCC can help?
If you need assistance with your RTW program development and implementation, contact the Return to Work Specialist.
If you have questions or need assistance with a specific claim, contact the Case Manager or Adjudicator.
If you need help with your safety program and investigating incidents and controlling hazards, contact Prevention Services.
Northwest Territories: 1-800-661-0792
24-hour Incident Reporting Line: 1-800-661-0792