Alan Shanoff is a Toronto lawyer who knows a great deal about employment and disability law.  Fortunately for Wellspring he is also part of the cadre of our legal volunteers. Called to the Bar and practicing since 1978, Alan spoke at a recent Wellspring Back At Work discussion series on “Legal Issues and the Workplace”.

He began by reminding us that if you have cancer and return to work you are considered to have a disability and therefore have a right to request accommodations even if your company does not offer short term disability (STD) or long term disability (LTD) benefits to employees. Examples of accommodations might include time off of work to attend medical appointments, adjustments to your work station, software assistance or retraining. Individuals are encouraged to explain to their employers why they need any specific accommodation and then allow their employers a reasonable amount of time to respond. Alan gently advises that if you have a concern about the way your employers is handling your back to work situation, then begin by giving your employer the benefit of the doubt and ask for a meeting, to explain what you need and why. Should you not have a satisfactory outcome or have no response after a reasonable period of time, then you should ask again for another meeting, and be sure to document your request. It’s a last resort to become adversarial but if you need to do so, it is best to speak to a lawyer about your options.

A common fear among many individuals who have had cancer is whether or not they would be covered by their employer’s insurance company in the event of a cancer recurrence. According to Alan, if you are starting a new job, your employer’s insurance company can exclude you from coverage such as Short Term Disability or Long Term Disability for a period of time – usually the first year on the basis of having a pre-existing condition. However, if you stay with the same employer and experience a recurrence, you should check with your insurance provider to clarify any recurrence clauses and understand when you would be eligible to apply for LTD benefits. It is really important to have a look at your employer’s formal insurance policy (the actual policy that the insurer’s write for the employer detailing all the contract provisions) to determine your coverage. The Money Matters program at Wellspring helps people with information and case management related to applying for various income replacement programs and exiting those programs to return to work. The Toronto Money Matters program can be reached at 416-961-1928, and at the Birmingham-Gilgan Wellspring in Oakville at 905-257-1988.

Please let us know if this information has been helpful.

Judy Gould, PhD is a program leader at Wellspring, a therapist in private practice and a faculty member at the Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy.