Champions Career Centre: Finding the right fit: Maria's story Champions Career Centre: Introducing YYC Talks

This month’s focus – Returning to work after disability leave

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In 2012, 13.7% of working age Canadians reported having a disability. 

Neglecting to pay attention to disabilities in the workplace can have a large financial impact on a business.  Particularly on small to medium sized businesses where money is tight and human resources are limited.

Photo of people in employment with disabilitiesConsider absenteeism, which is frequent or persistent absence from work.  According to the Conference Board of Canada, the average cost of workplace absenteeism in 2011-12  was $16.6 billion and the average absenteeism rate among Canadian organizations in 2011 was 9.3 days a year, per full time employee.  However, despite the high costs of absenteeism, less than half of Canadian organizations currently track employee absences. 

Now, let’s consider presenteeism, which is attending work while unable to work at full capacity, for instance due to sickness or disability.  This is also costly for Canadian businesses.  The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that costs associated with an employee coming to work while ill or not able to perform their duties adequately can be 7-15 times higher than the costs of absenteeism. 

At Champions, we work with employers in a number of different areas including attraction, recruitment and retention of employees, as well as helping them to develop their overall disability and inclusion policies.  It’s about education, shifting perceptions and in the end, just plain good business sense. 

This month, we are focusing on how employers and employees can work together to facilitate smooth transitions when returning from long term medical or disability leave.  Although common, long term absences can be tough.  With many stakeholders involved and potentially complex bureaucracy, interpersonal relationships in the workplace can be tested.

Recently, we were fortunate to speak with Joanne McCusker.  As an Occupational Health Nurse and Supervisor of Occupational Health at Calfrac Well Services, Joanne specialises in this area and has helped hundreds of employees with smooth transitions back to work.  In general, a return to work translates to greater financial stability and a productive and active lifestyle.  Workers can re-establish social connections, which includes their co-workers.  Employers benefit too, as the return of a team member eliminates extra costs of temporary hires and boosts the morale of the team, e.g.  co-workers no longer feel the pressure of added duties to cover  and Joanne adds, 

“They don't need to feel guilty anymore.  Many employees feel guilty when they miss a day of work, let alone long term absences.”

Joanne notes 4 common difficulties that arise when an employee returns to work after disability leave:
  • Acquiring specific and objective medical information about the individual’s fitness for work.
  • When an employee does not have a complete understanding of their condition and wants to return to work too soon or is too hesitant to return to work.
  • When the employer has limited, meaningful and productive modified duties available to the worker.
  • Communication challenges, with health providers and between employers and/or employees.  
Communication challenges have the potential to cause significant barriers to return to work, workplace relationships, employee retention and presenteeism and absenteeism.  The key to solving these issues is often on-going education and moreover, open communication between stakeholders, e.g., employer or HR representative, health practitioners and employees. 

Joanne's advice for a successful return for work is:
  • Early intervention - start contact with the employee right from the beginning of the absence. 
  • Ongoing, regular follow up while the employee is absent, to keep up a connection to the workplace and give employers a clear and accurate picture of the employee's progress.
  • Obtaining appropriate medical documentation.  This is vital in determining what limitations the employee have and what accommodations the employee may require.
  • Close collaboration and open communication.  During return to work planning all stakeholders should be informed of the process and have an opportunity to provide input.
  • Consider a return to work meeting involving all stakeholders.  Joanne usually conducts these on the first day back when someone has been off for a long period of time or with employees who have had complex mental health issues.
  • A clear and detailed return to work plan with timelines, an outline of expectations, detailed descriptions of limitations/modified duties and accountabilities for all stakeholders is also recommended.
Awareness of these simple pieces of advice will help employers large and small to better manage the return to work transition for employees with disabilities.  

Seeking advice from experts such as Champions or professionals like Joanne, can give all stakeholders the tailored support they may need for a successful return to work and help to reverse the current absenteeism and presenteeism trends in the workplace.

For more information or to get in touch with Joanne or one of Champions' Employment Retention Specialists please call us, 403.265.5374

Labels: , , , , , ,

Finding the right fit: Maria's story

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Photo of Champions Career Centre client Maria. We helped her to find a job in CalgaryChampions focuses on matching the right person to the right job. 

Today, Maria has the right fit for her at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Student Association (SAITSA), but when we first met her, she had been laid off from a busy, downtown office job and she was depressed. 

"It was a really painful experience for me, I feel like I lost my job because of my disability.  They said I was too slow; but I didn't know how to talk about my situation and how it was affecting my job.  If I had known, maybe I'd still be there.  Champions showed me how."

With one-on-one support from her Case Manager Mat, Maria progressed through each stage of Champions’ services.  She attended numerous workshops and began to feel more empowered.  In hindsight, she notes that the self-awareness and self-motivation she gained was equally important as brushing up on hard skills, such as resume and cover letter development and interview techniques.  With our support, Maria discovered that her learning disability and challenges relating to anxiety and stress were common. 

In fact, learning disabilities are very common with over 59,000 Albertans over the age of 15 reporting a learning disability in 2012.  Learning disabilities impact each individual differently and vary in severity, so it is possible that this number could be even higher.  There are positives and negatives surrounding our perception of learning disabilities today.  On one hand, learning disabilities are now well-documented and there is a heightened awareness of disabilities like Dyslexia.  On the other hand, this awareness has resulted in some unintended effects.  It’s not uncommon to hear people without a learning disability say, “I’m having an ADD moment” or “Oh I’m so Dyslexic today” when they make a mistake. Comments like these can worsen stigmas and make disclosure more difficult for a person who genuinely has the disability.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), now commonly considered as a learning disability, is further stigmatized by the fact it is often treated with stimulant medications such as Ritalin and there have been documented cases  of "academic doping" where Ritalin has been misused as a study aid by people who don’t have ADHD. 

Stigmas surrounding those with real learning disabilities, as Maria experienced, are that they are simply, ‘too slow’, lazy or not trying hard enough.  However, learning about disclosure, developing more self-awareness and self-confidence can help those with learning disabilities to speak up.  This helps to set the record straight and find the right workplace strategies and supports to help them be successful. 

After spending some time thinking and talking about disclosure in our workshop, Maria was able to make an informed decision about talking about her disability with her boss. 
“In the end, my disclosure was very casual.  I just told her that I have a learning disability, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

So how does Maria know that this is the right fit for her?
"How would people describe me? I’m crazy! I like having fun, the people I work with know that I like singing and dancing at work and they're OK with it.  I feel so comfortable there, even when it gets busy. It’s really a low-stress job for me and somewhere I can be myself." Maria says.

Great news, since we spoke to Maria she has been promoted to Senior Staff and Events Coordinator at SAITSA.  

Congratulations Maria, your hard work has really paid off and we are so glad Champions was able to help you find the right job for you!

Labels: , , , , ,

Introducing YYC Talks

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

YYC Talks is a new series of information evenings which aim to inform, empower and promote success in Calgary. Open to all Calgarians, topics will vary and will provide current, relevant and applicable information for both professional and personal success.

Mark your calendars:Topic: YYC Talks, Employment Standards Wednesday, April 9, 2014.Attendance is free of charge, but registration is required.
Learn about the rights and obligations of employees and employers in Alberta. A great opportunity to learn, and ask questions! Presented by Brian Krueger, Government of Alberta

Champions Career Centre office
4:00-6:00 PM, Wednesday, April 9, 2014
6th Floor, 839 - 5th Avenue SW, Calgary
Call 403.265.5374 or CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Space is limited. Light refreshments will be provided.
If you require any accommodations, please call us 403 265 5374.