Navigating the Complexities of Disability Leave: Rights and Responsibilities in the Canadian Workforce

Woman with broken leg

In the dynamic Canadian workforce, the issue of disability leave is gaining prominence, with employed Canadians feeling pressured to return to work prematurely after a period of disability.

The employment relationship operates within a contractual framework, establishing reciprocal obligations between employers and employees. From the employee's perspective, contractual duties include making reasonable efforts to attend work, maintaining honesty and competence, and fulfilling the terms of the employment contract.

When faced with medical restrictions hindering work capabilities, employees are expected to explore potential accommodations that could facilitate a return to work in some capacity. It is necessary for employees to be aware of their rights, consult with healthcare professionals regarding proposed accommodations, and resist undue pressure to return to work prematurely. Threats to terminate disability benefits or employment may be construed as bad faith, exposing employers or insurance companies to legal claims.

Employers, on the other hand, have their own set of obligations. Mandated to provide a safe and suitable work environment, they must adhere to regulations, such as the Employment Standards Act, Human Rights Code, Worker's Compensation Act, and the Occupational Health & Safety Act. In cases of ongoing disability, human rights legislation necessitates that employers attempt to accommodate employees up to the point of undue hardship.

Disability cases often give rise to disagreements among employees, employers, and insurance companies. Varied opinions on an employee's capacity to return to work, necessary restrictions, and potential accommodations can complicate the resolution process. Insurance companies may employ diverse strategies, including medical opinions and surveillance, to advocate for a swift return to work and the discontinuation of disability benefits.

In navigating the complexities of disability leave, understanding the contractual obligations of both parties is paramount. At JEWELL RADIMISIS JORGE LLP, we stand committed to supporting employees facing workplace challenges and advocating for their rights in disability cases. If you find yourself in a situation where your rights are at stake, remember that you have the right to stand up for yourself and seek the support you need.

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