What is early and safe return to work?
When you are injured at work, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act states that you and your employer must work together to ensure your “early and safe return to work” (ESRTW). The goal of ESRTW is an early return to suitable employment.
What is suitable work?
Work is suitable if:
- it is safe (it is not a health or safety risk to you, your co-workers or anyone else)
- it is available (the job exists at the worksite where you were injured, or at an appropriate worksite arranged by your employer)
- it is productive (it has a real benefit to your employer’s business)
- it is within your functional abilities and
- if possible, it restores your earnings to what you earned before the accident.
What are functional abilities and how are they determined?
The term “functional abilities” refers to what you are physically capable of doing. Your doctor or other health care professional initially provides this information on the Form 8 (Health Professional’s Report) when (s)he sends it to the WSIB to report your workplace accident. After your initial visit, your doctor or health care professional provides updated information about your functional abilities on a WSIB Functional Abilities Form (FAF) when you or your employer request it. You must consent to the release of functional abilities information to both the WSIB and your employer.
It is extremely important that your Form 8, FAF and any other medical reports, accurately state what you are capable of doing. If you refuse work that is within the functional abilities set out in these reports, you will be treated as un-cooperative and your benefits may be reduced or taken away. If the Form 8, FAF or any other medical reports do not accurately state your condition, you should discuss this with your doctor (or other health care professional).
What is my role in ESRTW?
You must co-operate with your employer and the WSIB at all times in your ESRTW. Co-operation in your ESRTW includes:
- contacting your employer as soon as possible after your injury and staying in touch throughout your period of disability or recovery
- helping your employer, if asked, to find appropriate employment
- giving the WSIB any information requested about your ESRTW
- attending health examinations as directed by the WSIB, and
- informing the WSIB about any material change in circumstances (see Material Change in Circumstances for more information). Changes that may affect your return to work include sickness, a change of address, or leaving the province.
If you do not co-operate, your benefits may be reduced or taken away. If you are a construction worker, you should speak to a qualified representative because the things you must do to co-operate may be different.
What is my employer’s role in ESRTW?
Your employer must co-operate with you and the WSIB at all times in your ESRTW. Co-operation from your employer includes:
- contacting you as soon as possible after your injury, and maintaining regular contact with you throughout your period of disability or recovery
- attempting to identify and arrange appropriate employment
- giving the WSIB any information required about your ESRTW, and
- informing the WSIB about any material change in circumstances.
What is the role of the WSIB in ESRTW?
You and your employer are mostly responsible for arranging your early and safe return to work. The involvement of the WSIB will be as little as possible. The WSIB may, however, do the following:
- provide information and check on your activities and progress with your employer
- decide whether you and your employer are meeting your obligations
- decide on any problems that may arise between you and your employer, and
- provide early intervention services. A WSIB Return to Work (RTW) Specialist meets with you and your employer no later than 12 weeks post-injury to try to arrange return to work. This occurs if your medical and functional abilities reports say you can return to some kind of suitable work and you have not been able to arrange it with your employer.
If there is a dispute between you and your employer, you must advise the WSIB immediately. The WSIB will try to resolve the dispute. If the problem cannot be resolved, the WSIB will make a decision.
How does ESRTW affect my benefits?
As long as you are co-operating in ESRTW, you are entitled to loss of earnings (LOE) benefits (see Loss of Earnings Benefits for more information). If you are working as part of your ESRTW but earning less than before your accident, your LOE benefits will be 85% of the difference between your earnings before the accident and your current earnings.
What if my employer offers me work that is not safe or suitable?
You can refuse to do work that you think is unsafe or unsuitable. You should, however, contact the WSIB immediately to let them know your concerns. A RTW Specialist may try to negotiate changes to the work to make it safe and suitable. You and your employer may be asked to evaluate the work or the workplace, or you may be required to take part in a functional abilities evaluation. If you still disagree and refuse to try the work, then the WSIB will make a decision.
Unless the work is clearly unsafe for you or others, it is usually best to try the work offered by your employer to see if you can do it. If you are unsure whether the work is suitable or safe, discuss it with your doctor and a qualified representative.
What if I am ready to return to work, but my employer will not let me?
You must advise the WSIB if there is a dispute and your employer is not co-operating in your ESRTW. Your employer may have an additional obligation to re-employ you (see Re-employment for more information). If the WSIB cannot return you to suitable work with your employer, you should be provided with a work transition assessment to see what your options are for returning to work (see Work Transition for more information).
Can I appeal a WSIB decision on ESRTW?
Yes, but you must send an Intent to Object Form to the WSIB within 30 days of the date of the decision. For more information on appeals, see Appeals at the WSIB.
If you miss the 30 day deadline you can ask the WSIB for an extension. See Appeal Time Limit Extensions: WSIB for more information.
This publication contains general information only. It is not legal advice about a particular situation and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified representative. This publication was last updated on the revision date listed below.
February 9, 2013