Early Intervention & Return to Work Program for Supervisors

The Deputy Ministers’ Council on the Public Service has endorsed a plan to prioritize and improve health across the BC Public Service.

Deputy ministers rely on you to put this plan into action.

The Short Term Illness and Injury Plan (STIIP) and long term disability (LTD) are self-funded plans. They cost the government approximately $70 million annually (not including the cost of back-filling positions for ill or injured employees).

Another $121 million is attributed to estimated losses. Even a one per cent reduction in these benefit costs amounts to a savings of $700,000 per year.

Research shows that a program focused on early intervention and return to work is an effective way to reduce the rate of health-related absences and shorten the time an employee is absent from work. In fact, the best intervention is while employees are at work and possibly prevent an absence altogether.

Supporting employees in managing their health issues and showing concern for their well-being leads to improved employee engagement and a healthier workforce.

The Early Intervention and Return to Work program promotes intervention at the earliest opportunity. Supervisors can support an employee at work, or, if the employee is on sick leave, help them return to work as soon as possible.

The goal is to encourage a safe, timely and sustainable return to work by employees who have been ill or injured, regardless of whether the absence is work related or not.

As a supervisor, you can have a significant impact on your work unit. Employees who have a gradual and early return to work while they continue their recovery are proven to enjoy a more complete medical recovery and have fewer long-term complications.

In descending priority, the program’s goals from a rehabilitative perspective are

  • To assist the employee to stay at work with job modifications rather than be absent
  • The employee’s early return to their own occupation with modified duties and/or hours
  • The employee’s early return to a temporary alternative occupation with modified duties and/or hours
  • Re-training and referral to alternative employment if permanent medical restrictions exist
  • Ongoing benefits if no option to return to gainful employment

Your Responsibilities as a Supervisor or Manager

  • Manage routine return-to-work cases. Provide modified duties and implement return to work plan in keeping with any restrictions or limitations noted
  • For non-routine cases, contact and work directly with the return to work specialist and/or an occupational health nurse team
  • Review eligibility for STIIP leave, approve leave if appropriate and initiate pay action. Contact AskMyHR to be redirected to a return to work specialist if you need advice
  • Determine STIIP start date and monitor the 15-day STIIP re-qualification period once the employee has completed a full return to work
  • Ask for return to work planning information as needed on a doctor's certificate
  • Keep the supervisor’s copy of the doctor’s certificate form (the short portion of the form) in the workplace. Do not keep any copies of the confidential portion of the form—send these to the occupational health nurse (see address on form)
  • Maintain contact and relationship with your employee throughout the absence. Remember to engage them in discussions about what they can do as they recover and be flexible and open to suggestions
  • Be proactive and identify opportunities to modify work for a gradual return to work
  • Complete and provide return to work trial letters to your employee
  • Process and approve pay for your employee for the hours worked on a return to work trial
  • Complete WorkSafeBC forms as required by legislation if your employee is injured in a workplace incident. Find out more about WorkSafeBC claims

Good practices

  • Communicate clear attendance expectations to all employees. Don’t wait for issues to arise, be proactive in setting expectations for all your employees so they know and understand what is required in terms of their attendance, as well as performance and behaviour
  • Be prepared to offer modified duties. When employees do contact you to say that they are ill or injured, ask them what they can do. Explore job modifications with employees and demonstrate flexibility and innovation. Help them stay at work
  • Make sure employees are aware of who to call to report when they will be absent from work. Set the stage—let all employees know that when they do call in, they can expect to be asked if there is work they can do since modified duties will be made available. They will be welcomed back when they can do any portion of work
  • Identify and assist struggling employees. Open lines of communication. Take the time to have a conversation with employees who may be struggling. Encourage employees to seek assistance from Morneau Shepell for a variety of work/life balance and health-focused services, as well as short-term counselling. Call 1 800 655-5004.
  • Encourage employees to participate in cold and flu prevention programs
  • Ensure employees have access to training in safe work procedures. Identify and address risks of musculoskeletal injuries through an ergonomics assessment. Regularly review and discuss the ergonomics in your workplace