What You Missed: Annual Health and Disability Management Seminar

On June 1, 2, and 3, Cowan held its annual complimentary seminar on Health and Disability Management in Ottawa, Timmins, and Cambridge, and via webinar. In this year’s seminar “The Years in Review”, our presenters discussed the challenging issues that have affected employers of every size and sector over recent years. The following is a brief summary of this year’s event which was well received by all attendees.

Kelly Alarie, COHN, RN, CDMP, Principal in Health and Disability Management, who has been with Cowan for approximately 10 years, led the seminar with a review of mental health in the workplace, the duty to accommodate, and related interactive case studies. She reviewed highlights of previous seminars to demonstrate the evolution of health and disability management challenges over recent years.

The landscape is ever-changing and employers must be nimble and have experts at their disposal in order to navigate the industry and legislative changes. For example, employers continue to request more medical information; however, it is recommended that employers only obtain functional abilities, restrictions and limitations, and return-to-work prognoses. The bottom line is that in today’s environment, employers only receive the amount of information needed to be able to safely accommodate an employee back to work.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has been instrumental in changing the landscape with a mandate to “promote mental health in Canada, and work with stakeholders to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems, and to improve services and support.”

The session that followed was presented by Dr. Graeme Magor, MD, DOHS, a medical consultant at Cowan for approximately nine years. Dr. Magor presented the medical implications of mental health in the workplace, medical accommodation, and family status accommodations.

Dr. Magor highlighted the reduced costs associated with accommodating an employee versus ignoring their duty to accommodate and also reiterated how most employers are more tolerant of physical ailments versus mental health conditions. With respect to family accommodation, Dr. Magor reviewed the four part Johnstone test, which must be met in order for the employee to qualify for a family accommodation. It includes:

  • The child is under the employee’s care and supervision.
  • The childcare issue engages the employee’s legal responsibility for that child as opposed to personal choice.
  • The employee has made reasonable efforts to meet those childcare obligations through reasonable alternative solutions, and a solution is not reasonably accessible.
  • The workplace rule interferes in a manner that is more than trivial or insubstantial with the fulfillment of the childcare obligation.

Dr. Magor also led the groups through three case studies distinguishing differences between medical accommodation and family accommodation, as well as challenges with mental health in the workplace.

The third component of our seminar was the legal landscape and employer obligations. The Ottawa and Timmins sessions were led by Noëlle Caloren, Associate at Borden Ladner Gervais and the Cambridge session was led by Lauri Reesor, Partner at Hicks Morley. In this session, the presenters focussed on the employer’s duty to accommodate, the accommodation process (which must be collaborative), family accommodation, as well as recent legal cases of importance to employers.

Our dynamic and knowledgeable presenters provided an informative and fun session that equipped employers with essential information to assist them in navigating the ever-changing disability management landscape.

For more information, or to be invited to next year’s seminar, please contact your Benefits Consultant.