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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 2, October 2004

BCTF rehab program: When members need help, the BCTF is there

A teacher trying for over two years to cope with a medical condition by taking the odd day off here and there used 10 or more days each year and ran out of days to cope with the difficulty.

A teacher who had a major operation and was off work for four months and is now ready to go back to work but wants to return at less than full time to start with and then work toward full-time return. The return to work requires some additional resources, and the teacher has to attend ongoing physiotherapy.

A teacher finding that the work stress was just too much became quite depressed, and had to be off work for a year. With good support and a positive recovery, and with a changed and reduced assignment, the teacher is ready to try a return to teaching. The teacher will begin by observing and helping out in a class that someone else has agreed to teach, and after a short "work hardening" period, the returning teacher will take over the class.

All the above are typical scenarios for teachers voluntarily in the BCTF SIP Rehabilitation Program.

A 1993 pilot project undertaken by the BCTF and D.B. Hanson and Associates to assist teachers off work due to illness or injury and wishing to return to work involved five pilot districts and 15 control districts. The success of the early program led to the expansion of the BCTF Salary Indemnity Plan Rehabilitation Program into 50 of 60 districts throughout the province. So now, more than 96.5% of the eligible teacher population has access to this very important assistance to work return.

The program helps teachers who became disabled return to their teaching positions as early as possible, through a rehabilitation program that is accepted on a voluntary basis early in the disability absence. The overall goal of the program is to return teachers to work as soon as possible and/or to assist them in achieving maximum medical recovery from their condition.

Teachers are helping teachers because we understand best the difficulties our colleagues may experience in teaching and the adjustments that could be made to make returning to work successful.

The rehab program works in each district through a district rehabilitation committee consisting of an employer rep, a union rep, and a BCTF-contracted and -certificated rehabilitation consultant. The district committee meets monthly to review all cases and agree to accommodations and adjustments as necessary for a successful return to work of a teacher who has volunteered to participate in the rehab program. The program is currently staffed by a rehab co-ordinator, a senior rehabilitation manager, four rehabilitation managers, and four referral co-ordinators, who are based in the BCTF building.

Seven rehabilitation-service-provider companies, with a total of 33 certified rehabilitation consultants, are providing services in the 50 districts across the province.

Members can self-refer to the program through their local president. A teacher may be identified as a likely candidate for rehabilitation intervention by the local president, the school district, or the BCTF Salary Indemnity Program, both short and long term.

If the teacher voluntarily agrees to be involved, an assessment takes place, a plan is developed, and the plan is implemented with ongoing assessment by the rehabilitation consultant until the teacher’s return to work is seen as durable.

The co-operation and involvement of the school board is necessary in the provision of necessary equipment/space/ work assignment modifications to accommodate the return to work as per the plan developed by the teacher, the consultant, and the healthcare professionals involved.

Workshops put on by the rehab program for joint attendance by staff reps and principals on the nuts and bolts of the program help school staffs to be well informed. Districts have an interest in having a teacher return to work as soon as is appropriate, as they incur the costs of sick leave. Teachers want the best for their colleagues, and constructive use of the program is important since the program is financed by the benefit contributions of employed teachers. All medical information is treated with utmost confidentiality. The Salary Indemnity Plan wanted a program that would best understand teachers’ needs, maintain confidentiality of medical information, and protect teachers from inappropriate use of personal information.

The rehab program takes about 6% of the total Salary Indemnity Plan budget. Its work is entirely devoted to getting teachers back to work, thereby decreasing the total of the other 94% of costs of the SIP short- and long-term plans.

Studies have shown the importance of early intervention and assistance to members off work. Return-to-work rates are such that 50% of teachers off work for six months return, 20% of teachers off work for a year return, and 10% of teachers off work for two years return to work.

Teachers wishing more information on this program and how to access it may contact their local president or Dave Scott, SIP rehab program co-ordinator at the BCTF, 604-871-1949 or toll free 1-800-663-9163, local 1949, dscott@bctf.ca.

– Dave Scott


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