Return to Work

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Modified work programs

WCB Policy states that a worker has to accept a temporary modified work program with their employer if the WCB doctors determine they are fit. With my case and stories from many other injured workers, this went against what our family doctors reported. If you do not participate with the modified work program, WCB suspends your benefits because the policy surrounding this issue gives them the authority to do this. https://www.wcb.ab.ca/assets/pdfs/public/policy/manual/printable_pdfs/0405_2_app2.pdf

It’s also important to know that Employers have a lot of say in this process!  Some employers are very good about this and will accommodate the injured worker. However, there are a lot of employers out there that in my opinion think workers are faking it most of the time!  This modified work also needs to be suitable in that it accommodates the medical restrictions, contributes to the worker’s rehabilitation, promotes gradual return to job, must be meaningful and productive (picking garbage if you worked in the office is not!) and does not create financial hardship. This is also stated in the above policy link. Policy also states that suitability is determined by consulting with you, your employer and your doctor. This is not at all true; at least not with my case. I had no say in this determination of suitable work and they refused to listen to my doctor. The above policy link titled Return to Work Services explains all of this.

Return to Work Agreements

When you are sent back to work for a modified work program, a Return to Work Agreement is typed up by the employer for you to read and comply with. Some employers use their own versions as opposed to WCB’s. My return to work agreements listed all the modified work I would be doing. However, these need to be approved by WCB and my doctor as stated in policy. I was not provided the opportunity to have my doctor approve this before WCB said I had to comply or have my benefits suspended. I refused to sign this agreement. You can’t be reprimanded for this because policy states it has to be approved by your doctor! https://www.wcb.ab.ca/assets/pdfs/public/policy/manual/printable_pdfs/0405_2_app2.pdf

Unfortunately, there are a lot of injured workers that get treated very poorly by their employer during this process. This adds to the already stressful situation you are in when trying to recover from injuries. The policies developed for these modified programs seem to be geared toward helping the employer and WCB continue to create more stress and hardship for injured workers. A lot of injured workers that don’t have serious injuries requiring surgery, end up walking away from it all. This is very common and WCB relies on them doing so. However when that happens, workers end up in a situation down the road if they re-injure themselves.

With myself and many other injured workers that have expressed their situations with their employer, the stories are very similar. My employer continually gave inaccurate information to the WCB. That alone is considered to be a contravention of Section 151.1 of the WCA 2000 which states it is against the law to “provide false or misleading information to the board”. The only way to prevent these problems with respect to the Return to Work program is to get in to see a non WCB specialist and have them comment on your ability to perform specific duties. As stated previously, these hold more validity than WCB’s doctors and consultants.