Modernizing Disability Management in the Public Service

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By A Correspondent

The Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, on June 10, announced plans to tackle high rates of employee absenteeism and to strengthen support for ill and injured public servants with an ambitious new initiative to modernize the Government’s outdated disability insurance plans.

“How we deal with disability management has a significant impact on worker productivity and our ability to deliver effective and affordable services to Canadians,” said Minister Clement. “The public service suffers from exceedingly high levels of absenteeism, which is unsustainable for any employer looking to run a high-performing and productive workforce.”

The federal public service has an annual absenteeism rate of 18.2 days, including paid and unpaid leave. That is two-and-a-half times the private sector rate of 6.7 days. Under the current system, it is difficult for ill and injured employees to reintegrate back into the workforce. In order to better manage employee illness, the Government, working closely with bargaining agents, intends to overhaul the current disability management system, which has remained virtually unchanged for the past 40 years.

“It’s time we fix an inefficient system that doesn’t work for employees, who need the support, or for Canadian taxpayers, who are footing the bill,” said Minister Clement. “The workplace has changed dramatically since 1970 and we need to find a more effective and efficient way to help employees get back to work as quickly as possible.”

The Government, in a multi-year initiative, is looking forward to working with stakeholders and bargaining agents for designing and tendering a new short term disability plan and the re-tendering of the existing long-term disability plan. The short-term disability program is to support employees through illness. Approximately 87% of Canadian employers provide short-term disability insurance, making the federal government one of the few large employers that does not offer coverage for short-term illness.

This initiative is part of the Government’s commitment to reform the public service, encourage greater productivity and ensure Canadians are receiving efficient and affordable service for their tax dollars. This initiative follows on a recent announcement to introduce a rigorous new tracking system for employee performance that looks to encourage good workers and deal decisively with poor performers.

At the same time, the Government’s long-term disability plan, first introduced in 1970, will be overhauled to provide seamless integration between the short-term disability program and long-term disability insurance. The current system provides benefits coverage after 13 weeks of illness.

“We need a 21st century disability management system for a 21st century workforce,” said Minister Clement. “The current system will be replaced with a new, streamlined system that ensures active case management and comprehensive support for the ill and injured.”

A revamped plan would strengthen support for ill and injured employees, including addressing new and emerging illness like mental health, which today represent more than half of all disability claims among employed Canadians. Active case management will tackle high rates of absenteeism in the public service, ensuring a timely return to work and improved productivity.

“Our Government is working to actively support a healthier workplace, which in turn is a more productive workplace,” added Minister.

It is important to enhance the wellness and well-being of its employees because workplace wellness and enhanced productivity go hand in hand. Workplace well-being generates higher levels of employee engagement which leads to higher-performing organizations.

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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