SURREY – The Surrey Board of Trade wants the B.C. government to better support those who are transitioning from disability assistance back to the workplace.
SBOT issued a government policy announcement during its Business to Business Networking Reception, held at Semiahmoo House Society in South Surrey on Sept. 21st.
The business group praises the provincial government’s Accessibility 2024 report for its goal to have high labour participation rates for people with disabilities by 2024, and the recent budget announcement suggesting annual earnings exemption for disabled people will increase by $2,400 as of Oct. 1.
But the SBOT said there are still some being left behind.
“There is a sub-set of individuals who receive disability supports that are not represented,” states a SBOT press release. “These are individuals who are recovering from a long-term illness and are preparing to re-enter the labour market. To ensure their successful re-integration, they require flexibility in the Disability Assistance Program to help both the employer and employee accommodate the transition from a few hours a week to full-time.”
SBOT CEO Anita Huberman calls for a modified return-to-work program for these individuals.
“This includes transitional disability assistance allowing for a graduated recovery of income earned over the allowable income exemption,” she said. “The Surrey Board of Trade has focused on many workforce development programs and advocacy that has instigated change to ensure that workplaces have the skilled human capital that they need. In the face of skill shortages, the Surrey Board of Trade is asking government to focus on filling this gap in the Disability Assistance Program to help employers and employees.”
The SBOT notes these workers are not covered by insurance or are subject to time limits and they are not considered to be WCB or ICBC related.
In these cases, major illness or injury is typically the cause of the period of unemployment, and at some point the individual would be able to return to some form of work, notes the report.
“Return-to-work plans are recommended by human resource agencies and governments as the preferred tool to assist employees to return to the workplace,” a SBOT press release states. “Part of recovering from a debilitating illness is considered beneficial for a worker’s mental and social well-being.”
The maximum allowable support can become a barrier, according to the Surrey Board of Trade, as people increase their hours but are not seeing a benefit, and the increase in employed hours paid may not be enough to match the disability support. This can prohibit someone from being able to leave the disability assistant program, particularly if they have dependents.
“The dollar-for-dollar deduction after allowable earnings is a major barrier to a successful return-to-work plan requiring recovering employees to effectively jump from as few as 2-4 hours weekly (especially if a skilled-worker earns more than minimum wage), to full-time in order to ensure sufficient income. If returning too soon, the employee can suffer a medical set back impacting their recovery and the workplace,” the SBOT release notes. “What is required for these willing workers is a flexible assistance schedule that allows for increasing hours and commensurate pay, and that extra time required to successfully integrate back into the workforce.”