Early and safe return to work

Return to work is a process that occurs when a worker suffers an injury or illness to help them stay at work and/or return to work as soon as functionally possible. The process can occur at the same time as the worker receives medical and rehabilitation treatment to improve their overall recovery. It starts as soon as the worker receives medical care.

We can help you and the worker at all stages of return to work. We have lots of experience integrating workers back into the workforce and we’re here to help.

Benefits of return to work

Return to work is beneficial to you, the injured worker and the compensation system as a whole.

For you, the employer, return to work:

  • fulfills legislative requirements including the duty to accommodate under the Human Rights Act;
  • retains experienced, skilled and knowledgeable workers;
  • improves worker morale and relations;
  • demonstrates the value the organization places on its workers;
  • provides a consistent process to guide injured workers back to work;
  • decreases workers’ time away from work, which reduces time-loss claims, prevents disability and keeps assessment rates down;
  • reduces hiring and training costs;
  • improves the health and safety culture;
  • reduces the risk of similar injuries occurring by identifying and controlling hazards; and
  • enhances company image.

For the injured worker, return to work:

  • supports a safe return to the workplace as soon as possible;
  • helps to preserve their pre-injury earning capacity;
  • helps with their physical, social and mental healing and recovery;
  • prevents the negative consequences of long-term absence;
  • keeps their pre-injury skills;
  • identifies suitable work; and
  • bolsters their dignity and self-esteem.

Roles and responsibilities

You and the worker have responsibilities for return to work. Everyone on the return-to-work team has a role to play.


  • You play the most influential role in the RTW process by providing creative opportunities for accommodating an injured worker’s functional abilities. As well, by participating in the case management team, you can help to facilitate and shape the stay-at-work or the return-to-work plan.
  • Stay in contact with the worker during their recovery period.
  • Help create a return-to-work plan.
  • Discuss suitable work. Determine if the work is compatible with the worker’s capabilities and, where possible, if it pays the same.
  • Provide us with any information about the worker’s return to work.


  • Work together with you to develop and participate in their return-to-work plan.
  • Accept suitable work when it is identified.
  • Talk to their health care providers about their work tasks and what they are able to do while they recover.
  • Attend all scheduled appointments and follow the set treatment plan.
  • Keep you informed about their recovery.
  • Keep us informed about their progress.


  • Monitor the worker’s recovery.
  • Explore return-to-work options with you, the worker and health care providers.
  • Assist all parties in the process for early and safe return to work.
  • Establish a case management team, if necessary.
  • Coordinate medical services and loss-of-earnings benefits.
  • Mediate disputes, when required.

Health care providers

  • Advise the worker about their medical recovery and provide the Functional Abilities Form.
  • Provide treatment and other services necessary for the injured worker’s recovery.
  • Provide a report to us.
  • Work closely with other health care providers involved, if applicable, to facilitate the worker’s safe and timely return to employment.

Return-to-Work Guide for Employers

To help employers with the return-to-work process, we have published the Return-to-Work Guide for Employers and accompanying handy rack card.

The guide outlines the six steps to follow from the moment a worker is injured until they fully return to work. It also provides tools and best practices for achieving ideal return-to-work outcomes.

In summary, the six steps are as follows.

Step 1: First aid/medical treatment

  • Provide first aid/medical aid. Call 911 for serious injury;
  • If needed, provide transportation to the nearest medical centre; and
  • Request that your worker provide a copy of the Functional Abilities Form they received from the health care provider at their appointment.

Step 2: Report the injury

  • Complete the Employer’s Report of Injury/Illness form within three days of becoming aware of an injury; and
  • Remind the worker to complete their Worker’s Report of Injury/Illness form.

Step 3: Communicate and collaborate

  • Contact the worker as soon as possible after the injury to discuss “stay at work” or “early and safe return to work;”
  • Maintain regular, frequent contact with the worker throughout their recovery;
  • Contact WSCB regularly to share updates on the suitable work options and return-to-work progress; and
  • If there is a job demands analysis or job description, please provide a copy to WSCB.

Step 4: Identify suitable work

  • Discuss the functional abilities with the worker and identify suitable modified work;
  • Consider the job demands, the worker’s functional abilities and identify barriers; and
  • Be creative.

Step 5: Create your worker’s return-to-work plan

  • Meet with your injured worker to develop a return-to-work plan;
  • Identify a key contact person at work to monitor and adjust suitable or alternate work;
  • Create an informal or formal return-to-work plan, as needed; and
  • Inform WSCB of the return-to-work plan.

Step 6: Implement and monitor

  • Return the worker back to work according to the return-to-work plan;
  • Check in with the worker regularly;
  • Provide updates to WSCB as needed or requested;
  • Communicate any progress, problems or concerns with WSCB; and
  • Monitor until completion of return-to-work plan and advise WSCB when completed.

Self-assess your return-to-work program

The quickest and easiest way to assess of the quality of your current program, or to start developing one, is to perform a self-assessment.

To help you, use the Disability Management Self-Assessment (DMSA) tool from the International Disability Management Standards Council.

To complete the self-assessment online or on paper:

Contact us for more information or assistance.