Disability Management in a Non-Union Environment

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November, 2012 – As a non-union employer, whether in private or public sector you may struggle with what disability management policies and procedures are appropriate for your organization. Few employers are aware of the costs associated with casual absence; other than the actual number of days lost.

Because you operate in a non-union environment, other than complying with legislated requirements, you have the ability to design and operate a disability management program that best suits your organization and culture.

A successful disability management program will:

  • Increase the number of employees who successfully return to their full-time pre-disability job following an illness or injury which will in turn reduce the cost of disability to your organization;
  • Minimize the negative impact of disability on the employee and their family members, including co-workers and the employer;
  • Ensure the disabled employee returns to the workplace as the earliest and safest possible opportunity, while providing medical expertise and expert return to work services throughout the process.

As in a unionized environment, a successful disability management program requires buy in at all levels of the organization, including:

  • Injured/ill employee;
  • Managers and Supervisors;
  • Various Workers Compensation Boards (where applicable);
  • Group insurers (where applicable);
  • Other health care providers.

A successful disability management program with a successful return to work piece benefits employees and employers alike and offers:

  • Maintaining current job skills;
  • Maintaining connection to the workplace and social skills;
  • Return to productive employment at the soonest possible opportunity.

What benefits does a non-union employer enjoy when establishing a disability management program?

Because non-union employers are not constrained by collective bargaining wording around absence and disability management, any program they choose to establish can truly be tailored to their organization, culture and employees. For employers with little experience in creating a program, the following should be reviewed:

  • Executive Commitment and Support – Must be obtained and is crucial to program implementation, development and support;
  • Knowing Who to Involve – A program development team must be established. In a non-union environment individuals should be obtained from the management team who can review the injury and illness history of the organization, together with developing a policies and procedures manual that will serve the organization well based on this history;
  • Selection of a Disability Management Coordinator – This step is essential when building a disability management program. Input should be obtained from other members of the team when selecting this individual. This person must be qualified through training and education, be familiar with all of the jobs within your workplace, and be well respected by employees and management alike. This person is often assigned to disability management work only in larger organizations, where in smaller companies disability management is only a part of their job function.

Policy and Procedure Manual

This can be developed for organizations of any size. You may believe that your organization is not large enough to go through the process of establishing an absence and disability management program, but this is possible for small companies as well.

The policies and procedures included in this manual must always fall in line with legislative requirements, but should also reflect the culture of your organization.

Goals and objectives must be identified, together with roles and responsibilities, program administration detail and a clear policy or mission statement.

Return to Work

Return to work options and policies are one of the most important pieces to any disability management program. Returning your employees to the workplace at the earliest and safest opportunity is crucial. Development of detailed policies that include both short and graduated return to work plans will assist every disabled employee through the return to work process and will promote and ensure return to pre-disability or alternate positions within your organization.


In summary, as a non-union employer you have the ability to design and promote a disability management program that works best for your organization. This program can be reviewed annually to ensure compliance and best practices.

About A.R.S.

Assessment Rehabilitation Services, Inc. understands that employee absence, return to work and program development are concerning to employers. Today, developing an effective disability management program is key to managing casual, short and long-term disability absence.

A.R.S. is also able to develop promotional material for your workplace and conduct lunch and learn sessions on the importance of an effective disability management program, and the benefits achieved by employees when such a program is implemented.