Workplace-based disability management and programmes that focus on a return to work for those individuals who have been injured or are deemed too ill to work, have been around for at least a couple of decades now. These programmes are expanding rapidly in North America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere as more and more employers realise the benefits of having a professionally developed, workplace-based programme in place for their workers .
Development in the field of disability management has come a long way requiring practitioners to work collaboratively with management, unions, insurance providers, government agencies, health care providers and others to assist the worker in safely returning to the workplace. As a result, disability management has become a complex profession requiring a combination of skills and knowledge. Comprehensive educational opportunities are now much more in demand to develop more disability management practitioners.
This programme was initially undertaken following a labour market survey by NIDMAR in 2002, in collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia, McMaster University, Ryerson University, Mohawk College and Human Resources Development Canada. They surveyed more than 1,000 employers, unions, insurance and service providers across Canada and identified that there is:
- Currently a shortage of qualified and competent professionals in the field.
- A growing need for competent professionals and practitioners due to an ageing workforce, increasing disability costs and return to work obligations.
- Demand for professionally trained individuals to carry out the tasks.
Effective workplace based disability management programmes have shown to reduce disability-related direct and indirect costs by 20 percent on average. Apart from the professional, personal, and economic benefits that an employee can continue to work, for the company, these cost savings help to increase its competitiveness, productivity, and workforce capacity. There is growing evidence that this survey, were it to be replicated in the UK and Ireland, would provide very similar results.