On August 13, 2021, the Federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, the Hon. Carla Qualtrough, announced the “Towards Excellence in Return to Work/Disability Management Professionalization” initiative to NIDMAR, with funding provided under the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.
We are now able to provide details on this initiative which is designed to support improved Return to Work (RTW) and Disability Management (DM) knowledge, programs and practices, and promote Disability Management professionalization across Canada (with the exception of BC which developed its own similar initiative), and mirrors major efforts currently underway across the UK, Belgium, Malaysia and other jurisdictions.
People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by much higher poverty and unemployment rates than almost all other sectors in our society. As over 80% of mental and physical health impairments occur during someone’s working life, effective accommodation efforts made by workplaces can play a pivotal role in workers maintaining, what are often good quality jobs, rather than entering the disability social security system (whether public or private) and all the associated obstacles of trying to successfully re-enter the workforce at a later stage.
Building a Culture of Accommodation and Inclusion through early intervention and a workplace commitment towards creative and collaborative solutions in the accommodation process are key to maintaining equitable and gainful attachment to the workforce.
National and international evidence clearly indicates rapidly declining long-term employment prospects for those with mental or physical health challenges that being one year on social security leads to a less than 1% chance of sustained future employment, a fact which is also supported through research.
Workplace knowledge, skills and education in a range of RTW/DM program, policy and accommodation practices are critical first steps in maintaining equitable employment for the disabled worker, while fostering a workplace culture of inclusion where the hiring of persons with disabilities from outside the organization no longer has the level of disability stigma which we still see all too often across the country and around the world.
This initiative recognizes that employers and workers jointly have a key role to play in achieving much improved socio-economic outcomes, which are reflected in successful efforts across Canada and comprehensive strategies in other jurisdictions. The various elements of this unique initiative include:
- Support for DM/RTW Continuing Education (delivered through the Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences – www.pcu-whs.ca)
- Scholarship opportunities in the Bachelor of Disability Management (delivered through the Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences – www.pcu-whs.ca)
- Support to obtain Professional DM Designations
- Support for workplaces to have an Assessment completed of their DM program
In addition to funding support from the Government of Canada, this initiative was formally endorsed and actively supported by the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario, Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council of Canada, CPHR Nova Scotia, as well as many other organizations across Canada which offered active encouragement and program design input.