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Private programs

Sick leave

This employer-funded benefit provides income to employees who are unable to work because of sickness or injury. It is usually limited to a certain number of days or hours per year. Sick leave is not required by law and is given at the discretion of the employer or negotiated in a union contract.

Short-term disability (private)

Partial wage replacement through an employer or insurance company is typically provided to those who have been off work for a short time. Short-term disability plans may have provisions that allow the insurance company to decide whether to offer funding support for services to help with vocational rehabilitation. However, this is less likely than with long-term disability plans.

It’s important to note that short- and long-term disability is an optional benefit funded by the employer, the union or by self-pay. Some short-term disability programs offer earlier intervention vocational rehabilitation support.

For more information, see Episodic Disability Employment Network Fact Sheet #2 (PDF).

Long-term disability (private)

Long-term disability plans are purchased by employers and offered as an employee benefit, or are purchased by employees themselves through a union or professional association. Typically, this insurance partially replaces the wages of those who have been off work for an extended period and who provide medical evidence of their inability to work. Depending on the plan, the definition of disability and eligibility for wage replacement varies, and it may change over time. Many plans offer partial wage replacement if someone cannot work in their former job. After two years, however, a medical opinion will be sought as to whether they could work in other occupations. For additional information, see the Guide to disability insurance from the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. Some insurance plans have provisions for permanent part-time disability.

Note that insurance-provided wage replacement may not continue indefinitely, and plans are not the same across insurers. It is important to encourage the cancer survivor to review their own policy to determine changes in eligibility, so that they can plan for a return to work or anticipate these eligibility changes early to avoid job loss and financial burden. For more information, see Understanding Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits webcasts, Wellspring Canada or Episodic Disability Employment Network Fact Sheet #3 (PDF).

Applying for long-term disability

To help patients apply for long-term disability benefits, you may want to refer them to this article Navigating your Long-Term Disability Claim by Ella Forbes-Chilibeck posted on the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network website.

Navigating a long-term disability claim

At some point in a claim, the insurance company may ask the claimant to apply for a Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D) benefit. This will allow the company to offset its costs. The claimant will likely be expected to sign off so that the CPP-D benefit goes to long-term disability provider or the amount the claimant receives from the CPP-D will be deducted from their long-term disability payment.

In some cases, people receiving private insurance (long- and short-term disability) have access to vocational rehabilitation support. Vocational rehabilitation services may include assessment, planning and rehabilitative support with the goal of safely returning an individual to work. The availability and degree of support varies depending on the mandate of these services.

For more information, see Long Term Disability Insurance: Support for Longer Absences from Work from the Episodic Disabilities Employment Network.

In many situations, the patient will need a referral to access vocational rehabilitation support. A doctor can recommend to the insurance company that the patient would benefit from such support, and the company will decide if it will fund the service. In many cases, insurance providers have a vocational rehabilitation consultant/counsellor assess the patient’s need for such a service before deciding to fund it. In some cases, the company’s case manager handling the claim will refer the employee to a vocational rehabilitation service. See Tips for Working with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor.