With an estimated 1 in 5 Canadians suffering from some type of chronic pain, the condition is so prevalent that it cannot be ignored by workplace parties. Given the subjective nature of pain, sufferers can encounter barriers in obtaining an appropriate diagnosis and receiving adequate treatment of their symptoms. Indeed, since chronic pain is a non-evident condition that is frequently misunderstood, sufferers can often be stigmatized as malingerers. Unfortunately the pain they experience is very real, impacting all facets of their lives including work attendance, productivity, and career progression. Because employers and unions may not fully appreciate the challenges posed by chronic pain, they may encounter difficulties in identifying suitable accommodations for an episodic condition that does not follow a predictable course of recovery. In this session, experienced medical and legal practitioners will provide an overview of the condition and discuss its impacts on the workplace, including:
- Understanding chronic pain: How is chronic pain defined? Is it an episodic condition or do symptoms tend to remain stable over time? What are some of the common physical and psychological impacts of chronic pain? What treatments are available to manage the condition?
- Impact on the workplace: How does chronic pain impact attendance and work performance? Are there typical work restrictions or functional limitations that arise either from the condition itself or from the side-effects of common treatments?
- Requesting medical information: Does the nature of the condition create any particular challenges in obtaining medical information for the purpose of validating absences and identifying suitable accommodations? How should employers tailor their requests for medical information to ensure that they receive adequate information? What information can an employer expect to receive in order to ensure that it can meet its duty to accommodate?
- Providing suitable accommodations: What are some examples of appropriate accommodations for an employee who suffers from chronic pain? Are there any particular challenges that are frequently encountered in assessing whether an accommodation is suitable? Are there any other measures that employers and unions can take to support an employee with chronic pain?