Return to work. Too much? Too soon?

Injured man using computer

A fundamental element in any workplace safety program includes a return to work process for employees who have been injured on the job. In Ontario, clear policy guidelines are established by the Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). These policies identify the steps required by all parties to ensure a successful ‘Work Reintegration’ process following a work-related injury.


Click here to read the steps required for the WSIB Work Reintegration program.

This particular program, and others like it in different jurisdictions across Canada, is based on extensive research and seemingly sound principles, that should honour everyone in the process including the injured worker. The reality of implementation, however, paints a different picture of how a poorly managed return to work program can have a devastating effect on the long-term recovery by the injured worker, especially when the injured individual’s credibility is called into question.

The Toronto Star recently posted an investigative piece on the complexities and potential consequences related to the pressures of work reintegration programs.

Click here to read the article.

The disconnect is significant between the positive intent of the WSIB policy guidelines and the negative results of a poorly communicated return to work strategy.

From a Human Resources perspective, we are often the ones called upon to make that initial contact with the injured worker, as required by the WSIB, within hours of the workplace injury taking place. It is no wonder that the Human Resources practitioner who makes this first contact is often perceived as a cold-hearted, ambulance-chasing bloodhound whose only interest is making sure that the employer’s financial interests are protected.

Yes, there are significant financial penalties imposed on employers when legislative requirements are not followed. There are also significant and long-term consequences when an injured worker is not treated with the respect that they are due, especially when they are vulnerable and in pain.

We, as Human Resources professionals, must learn how to straddle the legislative requirements imposed upon us with some element of dignity and respect for the injured worker. This takes time, patience and practice to strike the right balance between compliance with our legal obligations and compassion for our fellow workers, especially when they need our support the most.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were injured at work, how would you react if your employer called to ask you to come back to work as soon as possible?
  2. As a Human Resources practitioner, what is the first thing you will say to an injured worker when you are required to call them after their injury?
  3. The article discusses the negative perceptions of injured workers by other co-workers. What will you do if you see this happening in your workplace?