Workplace-based disability management, programs that focus on returning workers who have been injured or ill to meaningful work, have been around for at least a couple of decades now. Such programs are expanding rapidly in North America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere as more and more employers realize the benefits of having a professionally developed workplace-based program for their worksite.
During this time the field of disability management has come a long way requiring practitioners to work collaboratively with management, unions or employee organizations, insurance providers, government agencies, health care providers and others to assist the worker in safely returning to the workplace. As a result, disability management has become a complex profession requiring a combination of skills and knowledge. Educational opportunities are expanding throughout the country in response to demand for more comprehensive education programs for disability management practitioners.
A labour market survey undertaken by NIDMAR in 2002, in collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia, McMaster University, Ryerson University, Mohawk College and Human Resources Development Canada, surveyed more than 1,000 employers, unions, insurance and service providers across Canada identified that there is:
- Currently a shortage of qualified and competent professionals in the field.
- A growing need for competent professionals and practitioners due to an aging workforce, increasing disability costs and return to work obligations.
- Demand for professionally trained individuals to carry out the tasks.
Effective workplace based disability management programs have shown to reduce disability-related direct and indirect costs by 20 percent on average. Apart from the professional, personal, and economic benefits that an employee can continue to work*, for the company, these cost savings help to increase its competiveness, productivity, and workforce capacity.
*The risk of facing employment opportunity hardship and poverty is higher if there is no effective disability program that facilitates continued workplace attachment once the disabling condition commences.