WCB recommends clearance. But in every case?
“Can I bring my guy back without a greenlight from a doctor?”
It’s a question employers everywhere are wrestling with behind closed doors.
At first blush, the obvious answer would seem to be an emphatic No — as in, under no circumstances should an injured employee ever return to work absent medical clearance. To say otherwise, without exception, would be blatant mismanagement. And who pray tell would dare argue against that logic? After all, WCB recommends (although doesn’t necessarily insist upon) a practitioner’s blessing before a resumption of duties. So it all makes perfect sense….until, that is, reality begins hurling wicked curveballs.
Not sure what I mean?
Well, let’s take a couple of real world examples:
• Suppose your office worker is functionally able, per an occupational therapist, to perform regular duties. And the worker himself wants to return. The treating physician is on board too, yet won’t budge on modified until a lung function test is performed — six months from now. You sit back and wonder how six months of total disability (TTD) will hit your premiums.
• You have another person who’s off work with tennis elbow. The physician’s report kiboshes any plans for modified — not even sedentary or light duty tasks. But you’re befuddled, because the worker has a desk job and the dominant arm isn’t affected by tennis elbow. And worse yet, the physician’s report is almost entirely blank, so there’s no rationale for time-loss, no work restrictions, and no timeline for recovery. You sit back and wonder how another TTD claim of indefinite length will hit your premiums. And your ability to bid work, as the case may be.
These examples might seem cherrypicked. They’re not.
In these cases, employers are well advised to remember that workers have the final say with respect to their own health and functional ability. True, employers owe their workers a duty of care, which includes assessing fitness for work. Woe to the employer who recklessly endangers a worker or the general public when a lack of fitness is clearly evident. Or, for that matter, where Covid is concerned, as AHS mandates seem to be trumping individual labour rights in the Courts.
In the final analysis, WCB expects employers to be reasonably cautious in returning injured workers to the workplace. This might mean tapping an injured worker for input regarding job changes, or suggesting a third-party functional assessment to clarify fitness for work. And of course, clearance from a doctor should always be sought in cases of serious injury, or where job duties are high risk in nature. However, just be aware, that a rigid policy that insists on medical clearance without exception — in a healthcare system wracked by Covid — could backfire in spectacular fashion.