BC business leaders urge province to relax disability payment rules

Workers need a financial middle ground to transition effectively back to work

BC business leaders urge province to relax disability payment rules
Business community representatives in Surrey, BC are asking the provincial government to alter its long-term disability assistance scheme, which they say is not flexible enough for employees transitioning back into work.

The problem is that for employees coming back from an extended disability leave, easing back into the job is not financially practical, reported CBC News.

Under the current scheme, the annual earnings exemption — that is, the amount a person can earn before they are cut off from disability support — is just $9,600. That limit will be increased to $12,000 by Oct. 1, but even with the new limit, high-wage earners are in effect completely cut off from disability funding, and end up with less income even if they return just for a few hours.

In a statement, leaders from the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT) said that forces returning employees into making two extreme choices: either they go straight back into full-time work, or they stay home even if they are well enough to work part-time.

According to SBOT’s CEO Anita Huberman, some employees take on full-time work too quickly when they should be taking care of themselves and following doctors’ orders. “If returning too soon, the employee can suffer a medical setback impacting their recovery and the workplace,” the board said in its statement.

If workers decide to stay home, however, it’s problematic for businesses. “Our manufacturing sector, for example, is suffering a skills shortage," Huberman said. The board is saying that employees’ situations should be determined case-by-case, and the disability program should be as flexible as possible.

As a middle ground, the board suggested a plan to “wean” workers off payments, starting with part-time work. It also said it is looking at programs for individuals without insurance, those who have exhausted their coverage, or those not covered by the Workers' Compensation Board or the Insurance Corporation of BC.

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