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Health Management - Return To Work - Accommodation

Human Resources


Health Management


Return To Work

Accommodation process for returning to work

Accommodation is not a nicety or a courtesy. The City of Calgary must fulfil its legal obligations regarding the duty to accommodate as required by Alberta Human Rights Act. The Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income and family status. The following specifically addresses accommodation for disability.

The team

For employees returning to work from medical leave needing accommodation, the employee and supervisor will work through this process with the help of the Return to Work Coordinator. In more complicated cases union representatives or human resource advisors might be brought in to assist with finding reasonable accommodation solutions. The goal is to find suitable options that allow an employee to return to work in a safe and productive manner. The process is practical and focuses on problem solving. Accommodation requires cooperation, good communication, flexibility and creativity.

Start with medical documentation

Creating an accommodation plan begins when a doctor has indicated an employee can return with restrictions. It is important that the information the doctor provides is clear in terms of identifying the type of accommodations that need to be made: such as a gradual return to work, reduced hours or adjustments in the type of work being done. This information will be shared with the Return to Work Coordinator who will help coordinate the accommodation process with the employee and supervisor.

Gather the facts

Once a request for accommodation has been made, the supervisor and employee with the help of the Return to Work Coordinator work together to understand how the restrictions might impact the ability to meet work requirements. Each case is different. Sometimes the request for accommodation will be simple. The employee might be the best resource with suggestions for work alternatives that address their need. And, sometimes additional information will be required to clarify restrictions put forward by doctors.

The stages of accommodation

Once the request for accommodation has been made and all of the information has been gathered, the process of determining the best accommodation for the situation begins. In cases of S&A and LTD, the Return to Work Coordinator will facilitate the process. Finding an accommodation solution at the earliest possible stage in the process reduces the impact to the employee and business unit. It also reduces overall claim costs.

Stage 1

Start by looking to see if the employee’s own job can be modified. This is the best case scenario. If not, are there options in the employee’s immediate work area and section?

The supervisor should identify the essential and non-essential job duties of the position. Then consider what specific job tasks, work environments, equipment or policies are creating barriers and if adjustments can be made. Can you shift job responsibilities, allow more frequent breaks, change shift schedules?

Finding accommodation at this stage and keeping the employee in their base position has a positive impact on the employee and employer. It enables the employer to retain the skills and abilities of the employee for the work they were hired to do. It reduces productivity loss to the work area. And, it minimizes or eliminates impacts to the employee’s rate of pay and seniority.

Stage 2

If stage one is not an option, accommodation in other sections or divisions within the same union and business unit are explored.

Stage 3

The next option is alternatives in other business units within the same department and union.

Stage 4

If accommodation cannot be made within any of the business units within the same department, options across all business units in the employee’s own union are explored throughout The City.

Stage 5

The final option is accommodation beyond the employee’s union jurisdiction.

Document each step

The detail of documentation will depend on the complexity of the case, but in general documentation should include:

  • The request for accommodation. This should be kept by the Return to Work Coordinator and supervisor.
  • Dated notes of all conversations, meeting and telephone discussions held in relation to the request for accommodation. This should be kept by the Return to Work Coordinator and supervisor.
  • List the accommodation alternatives being considered, including those rejected as being unsuitable or constituting undue hardship. Include the rationale behind the decision. This is documented by the Return to Work Coordinator.
  • Record all offers of accommodation and the employee’s response. This process is done by the Return to Work Coordinator and if offers are made in the employee’s same business unit, his or her supervisor should keep documentation of any accommodation offers.
  • If an employee rejects a reasonable offer of accommodation that meets their needs, document the refusal and consult with Human Resources as soon as possible on the next steps to address this situation.

Implement, review, and follow up

As soon a suitable accommodation has been found, it is important to develop a plan. Make sure everyone involved is clear on what is being accommodated, how it will be achieved and the start and end dates if the request is temporary. The Return to Work Coordinator will share all of this information with the supervisor in the accommodating Business Unit.

The supervisor should continue to monitor the process and check-in with the employee. The Return to Work Coordinator will also continue to monitor the accommodation process. There may be cases where adjustments are needed. If an accommodation is not working because of medical reasons the process will need to be revisited to review potential adjustments, or find an alternate solution.

Who can help?

Your HR Advisor can discuss your situation and provide advice. If you don't know who your HR Advisor is call HR Support Services at 403-268-5800.

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