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Minister Clement to Modernize Disability Management in the Public Service

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Jun 10, 2013) - The Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, today announced plans to tackle high rates of employee absenteeism and to strengthen support for ill and injured public servants with an ambitious new initiative to modernize the Government's outdated disability insurance plans.

"How we deal with disability management has a significant impact on worker productivity and our ability to deliver effective and affordable services to Canadians," said Minister Clement. "The public service suffers from exceedingly high levels of absenteeism, which is unsustainable for any employer looking to run a high-performing and productive workforce."

The federal public service has an annual absenteeism rate of 18.2 days, including paid and unpaid leave. That is two-and-a-half times the private sector rate of 6.7 days. Under the current system, it is difficult for ill and injured employees to reintegrate back into the workforce. In order to better manage employee illness, the Government, working closely with bargaining agents, intends to overhaul the current disability management system, which has remained virtually unchanged for the past 40 years.

"It's time we fix an inefficient system that doesn't work for employees, who need the support, or for Canadian taxpayers, who are footing the bill," said Minister Clement. "The workplace has changed dramatically since 1970 and we need to find a more effective and efficient way to help employees get back to work as quickly as possible."

The Government is looking forward to working with stakeholders and bargaining agents to introduce, for the first time, a short-term disability program to support employees through illness. Approximately 87% of Canadian employers provide short-term disability insurance, making the federal government one of the few large employers that does not offer coverage for short-term illness.

At the same time, the Government's long-term disability plan, first introduced in 1970, will be overhauled to provide seamless integration between the short-term disability program and long-term disability insurance. The current system provides benefits coverage after 13 weeks of illness.

"We need a 21st century disability management system for a 21st century workforce," said Minister Clement. "The current system will be replaced with a new, streamlined system that ensures active case management and comprehensive support for the ill and injured."

As part of Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government committed to examining disability management in the public service. Initial discussions with bargaining agents recently began to explore the introduction of a modern disability management system.

Modernizing the approach to disability management is part of the Government's efforts to reform the public service, encourage greater productivity and ensure Canadians are receiving the best value for their tax dollars. This follows on the recent introduction of a new, mandatory system to track employee performance in the public sector. Other reforms include 50-50 cost sharing for public sector pensions and the elimination of voluntary severance for public servants.

A more robust disability management system will emphasize prevention and rehabilitation and will also include enhanced support for current and emerging health issues like mental illness, which was not adequately recognized 40 years ago but now represents more than half of all disability claims in the Canadian workplace.

"Our Government is working to actively support a healthier workplace, which in turn is a more productive workplace," added Minister Clement


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This news release is available at www.tbs-sct.gc.ca.

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The Government of Canada is committed to enhancing the wellness and well-being of its employees because workplace wellness and enhanced productivity go hand in hand. Workplace well-being generates higher levels of employee engagement which leads to higher-performing organizations.

The Government of Canada's current disability management system suffers from serious shortcomings, including large gaps in coverage and a lack of effective case management and rehabilitation to ensure a timely return to work. The federal government is among the few employers that do not offer short-term disability coverage for its employees (87% of Canadian employers do). At the same time, the long-term disability program, which has remained virtually unchanged since being introduced in 1970, is fragmented and outdated.

Under the current system, federal employees must rely on banked sick leave for short-term illness until long term disability coverage begins at 13 weeks. Almost 60% of employees in the public service however, lack sufficient sick leave to take them through the 13 week period. An inefficient way of managing the Government's human resources, it is also unfair to employees as it disproportionately benefits those with more years in the public service.

The Government of Canada plans to modernize this outmoded and inefficient disability management system in order to provide seamless coverage and active case management. The Government plans to introduce, for the first time, a short-term disability program to support employees through illness while the long-term program will be overhauled and integrated with the short-term disability program.

A revamped plan would strengthen support for ill and injured employees, including addressing new and emerging illness like mental health, which today represent more than half of all disability claims among employed Canadians. Active case management will tackle high rates of absenteeism in the public service, ensuring a timely return to work and improved productivity.

This is a multi-year initiative which will require, in consultation with bargaining agents, designing and tendering a new short term disability plan and the re-tendering of the existing long-term disability plan.

This initiative is part of the Government's Economic Action Plan 2013 commitment to reform the public service, encourage greater productivity and ensure Canadians are receiving efficient and affordable service for their tax dollars. This initiative follows on a recent announcement to introduce a rigorous new tracking system for employee performance that looks to encourage good workers and deal decisively with poor performers.