Every year, a large number of workers find themselves having to go on sick leave due to physical or mental health problems. Some of these workers will have difficulty reintegrating into work and will end up taking long-term leave. These difficulties are referred to as “work disabilities.” A new report published by the IRSST describes the practices of the individuals responsible for return to work (RTW) coordination in large private and public organizations in Québec.
Given the magnitude of the human and financial costs generated by these health problems, a number of strategies have been proposed to facilitate the return to work (RTW). Several studies have shown that the presence of a return-to-work coordinator (RTWCo) helps reduce long-term disabilities and the related costs. A RTWCo is a professional who facilitates the return to work of an employee with a disability by working hand in hand with the various stakeholders who may be involved in the process (direct supervisor or manager, union representative, health professionals, insurer, etc.).
While several scientific articles recommend coordination of the RTW process, current Québec practices in this regard remain largely unknown.
This study describes, for the first time in Québec, the practices of RTWCos in large organizations. These practices appear to be relatively homogenous and, for the most part, to form part of a spectrum of more varied tasks. Here are some key findings of the study: managing cases involving mental health disorders appears to be more difficult than those involving musculoskeletal disorders, the direct supervisor’s or manager’s role is essential to promoting a smooth process, and major efforts are needed to integrate concerted action into these workplaces.