Guest Blog: Prevent Long Term Disability by Managing Casual Absences

desk_benefitsRight now, there are employees at workplaces across Canada who may be at risk of absence and disability, some of them in your own place of employment. They may be dealing with physical or mental health issues, personal concerns or unresolved issues with a work colleague or supervisor. It is estimated that mental health problems alone cost employers about $20 billion a year, according to Statistics Canada. Add to this the fact that the average employee reported the equivalent of 9.3 days in work time lost for personal reasons in 2011, and the picture of lost productivity becomes very relevant for employers.

What can you as an employer do to address these issues before they escalate to a long-term disability claim?

Assess your organization
As an employer, you first need to look at your organization and assess the following.

Baseline- Do you have measures in place to track absenteeism, disabilities or health risks? The 2012 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey showed that only 38% of employers formally track absenteeism. It is difficult to address a problem if you don’t know the extent of the problem, so getting a good read on the current state of your organization is important.

Current policies and practices – Do you have an absence policy? Is there a disability plan for short and long-term disabilities? Does your sick leave policy mesh with your disability plan?

Health or organization assessment – You might decide that simply assessing your current policies and practices reveals opportunities for improvement, which allow you to take action.

Create a plan and strategy
Once you’ve assessed your situation, you need to form strategies and plan.  It is hard to address everything at once so prioritize. Assess whether you need to do the following:

  • develop policies and practices that address current gaps related to managing absence and disability; or
  • develop a workplace wellness strategy (i.e., what are the areas of focus that can best help your staff? do you have someone who can be responsible for managing the wellness programs? If not, where can you tap into resources?).

Develop improved practices
Early identification of issues and appropriate early intervention can help avoid short and long-term disabilities. On the other hand, sometimes simply treating an absence problem as a performance issue can do more harm than good, and can even lead to a disability. A manager must be able to look beyond the absenteeism and consider the reason for the absences, and do this in a way that respects the employee’s privacy. In this respect, management training is essential to help managers guide the discussion.

Communication is important, so you need to let employees know that the resources and services available can make a difference. In addition, providing information on medical conditions, prescription drugs, treatment options and health news can enable employees to help themselves.

Measure success
How you manage absences can say a lot about your organization and send a clear message to employees about their value. By applying various best practices and understanding what is going on in your workplace, you can support your managers and employees with great result. Consider some of these potential benefits:

  • a decrease in employee absence and disability incidence rates;
  • the ability to retain and engage valued employees and improved employee morale;
  • improved levels of overall organizational health and wellness;
  • improved service to customers; and
  • reduced costs, increased productivity and a healthier bottom line.

OASSIS partners with Volunteer Alberta to access respected and reliable carriers of benefit products. Organizations in Alberta that wish to access OASSIS Employee Benefits must be current members of Volunteer Alberta.

To get a quote today, contact Jennifer Truman at 1-888-233-5580 Ext. 7.


Karen Bentham

Executive Director of OASSIS


If you are interested in contributing to the VA blog as a Guest Blogger, please contact Tim at