With an aging workforce and greater awareness surrounding mental health, Canadian employers anticipate an increase in employee medical leaves in the future, says a Conference Board of Canada report.
The report, based on a survey, says that Canadian employers are preparing for such increases. It found that 63 per cent of employers currently offer formal stay-at-work programs to assist employees experiencing mental health challenges or chronic illness.
"Preventing illness and injury and promoting employee well-being are of critical importance to employers, but not all illness and injury can be prevented," said Allison Cowan, Director, Total Rewards and Workplace Health Research, The Conference Board of Canada, in a March 22 statement. "A large majority of Canadian employers recognize that absence and disability management programming is part of an effective overall organizational health management strategy."
The Conference Board says the health conditions employers believe are the most likely to cause medical leave increases are: mental health issue or illness (42 per cent), cancer (15 per cent), and musculoskeletal issue or injury (13 per cent).
Stay-at-work programs being offered by employees include options such as flexible work hours or modified duties (95 per cent of employers), offer of a different job (62 per cent), and telework (59 per cent).
“Staying at work may not always be possible, so return-to-work programs are essential for those employees requiring a medical leave,” says the Conference Board. Such programs provide accommodations to help employees dealing with physical and mental health challenges return to productive and safe work while they recover. Eighty-seven per cent of employers surveyed have these programs in place, says the report.
Trained practitioners help programs succeed
With respect to disability and absence management programs, the Conference Board found room for improvement. “Currently, less than one-third (31 per cent) of employers surveyed require their disability management staff to have degrees or certification in a related field. There is a growing understanding that having trained practitioners can make significant contributions to success within these programs,” says the Conference Board.