Return to Work: Your Employee's Privacy Rights

Every employer in Canada has a duty to accommodate its employees. As the employer, it is your fundamental responsibility to provide a fair and safe workplace that allows for the success of all employees regardless of disability, medical condition, family or marital status, gender, race or origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, and/or addictions to drugs or alcohol.

This environment must be provided pro-actively and modified reactively up to the point of undue hardship.

In order for you to make an informed decision about accommodations for an injured or ill employee, you need to obtain sufficient information about the employee's condition while still protecting his or her privacy.

Obtaining Information

Privacy rights protect the employee from having to divulge the diagnosis of his or her disability or medical condition. However, as an employer, you do have the right to know the following information:

  1. How the condition will affect the employee's current job duties,
  2. How long the condition will affect the employee, and
  3. What specific modified duties the employee is capable of doing.

Scrivens can provide you with a form to send with the employee on each medical visit to assist in collecting this information.

Contacting Medical Professionals

If the employee does not provide you with enough information to make informed decisions about workplace accommodations, obtain the employee's consent to speak with his or her physician. It is the employee's responsibility to disclose the information you need and/or to put you in contact with medical staff for more details. If the employee refuses, the return to work process can be halted.

If you still feel that you need additional information after speaking with the medical professional, you may request that the employee visit a specialist.

Medical Examinations

In certain situations, you are allowed to ask an employee to undergo a medical examination. Generally this is done when an employee returns to work after a serious injury or illness, and there is a question about whether the employee will pose danger to him- or herself or others. It can also be done if more details are needed about an employee's specific capabilities and limitations.

Respecting Privacy

It is important that both you and your employees know information obtained about an injury or illness is only to be used to find proper accommodations for the injured employee's return to work. All medical information is to be kept completely confidential and only shared on a need-to-know basis.

For more information about Return to Work and Privacy, please contact Ole Jensen.

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