Staff Report #4 – 2022 Attendance and Disability Management Programs

Staff Report #4

March 6, 2023

To All Commissioners

Re: 2022 Attendance and Disability Management Programs


That the report be NOTED and FILED.


Absenteeism and disability management represent an onerous and costly challenge for all organizations. Success in meeting the challenge is dependent upon understanding and managing the many complexities and competing elements associated with absenteeism and disability management, including:

  • trends and factors impacting the type and nature of illness leading to absenteeism. The onset of the global pandemic in 2020 has significantly affected employee attendance from 2020 to 2022;
  • workplace demographics, i.e., aging workforce, availability and extent of health benefits, work/family issues;
  • legislative requirements associated with the duty to accommodate;
  • the organizational culture around disability and absence, including encouraging employees to “stay home if they are unwell”; and
  • modifications to the Employment Standards Act and other legislative requirements to address issues as a result of the pandemic.

The chart below lists the five distinct categories of lost time utilized by London Transit when tracking and managing lost time. The associated bullets represent the various programs and strategies currently in place to mitigate the lost time in each of the categories. While these programs and strategies have been successful to varying degrees over the years in managing lost time in the workplace, the impact of the pandemic caused an unprecedented effect on overall lost time.

Short Term Disability • Return to Work Program

• Employee Assistance Program & Peer Support Program

• Employee Wellness / Mental Health Resiliency Training

Long Term Disability • Long Term Medical Placement

• Employee Assistance and Peer Support Programs

• Employee Wellness / Mental Health Resiliency Training

Work-Related Disability • Health & Safety Annual Work Program

• Hazard Recognition & Injury Investigation Process

• Return to Work Program

• Employee Assistance and Peer Support Programs

• Employee Wellness / Mental Health Resiliency Training

Other Lost Time • Attendance Management Program

• Culpable Absenteeism Program

• Management Outreach to Employees

• Employee Assistance and Peer Support Programs

• Employee Wellness / Mental Health Resiliency Training

LOA Statutory & Contractual • Ensuring evolving criteria for legislative leaves are adhered to, suitable documentation is gathered to support same.

The declaration of a global pandemic in March of 2020 continues to significantly restrict the employer’s ability to control lost time. Due to the many uncertainties and the related impacts of the pandemic, London Transit’s focus has and will continue to be to support employees through these turbulent times, focusing on employees’ mental health and providing support where needed. As noted in previous reports, in 2020, London Transit fast-tracked the Mental Health Resiliency Training Program’s rollout, and all active employees received this training. Regular communications continue to be shared with employees including tips relating to mental health as a reminder of what was discussed in the training program. London Transit continues to work collectively with the ATU Local 741 Executive to assist and support employees, including pausing the current Attendance Management Program so that a more focused approach could be taken to ensure employees have the necessary support to attend work on a regular basis. Throughout the pandemic period inclusive of 2022, London Transit employees demonstrated their ongoing commitment to the organization while faced with challenges both in the workplace and at home due to the pandemic.

In 2020, the Ontario Government amended the Employment Standards Act emergency leave provisions to provide new leaves relating to infectious diseases and declared emergencies (e.g. COVID-19). Employees have utilized these protected leaves to care for ill family members and children during school closures and isolation due to pre-existing conditions, leaving them vulnerable to COVID-19, etc. Then in 2021, the Ontario Government amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave related to COVID-19.

Subsequent to the onset of the pandemic, public health guidance evolved as additional data relating to the virus was gathered, and new variants emerged; this resulted in changes in protocols with respect to when someone should be tested, what was considered a close contact, how long they should remain in isolation if they had been in close contact, etc. Additionally, insurance companies altered their adjudication course several times with respect to what would be considered an approved COVID-19 claim and how long it would be approved. While the nature and frequency of the changes are understandable given the evolving nature of the pandemic, it resulted in the employer’s ability to manage lost time being severely restricted and the recognition that lost time would increase and remain significantly higher throughout the pandemic period. Notwithstanding this, the employer’s underlying principle of all decisions throughout the pandemic was to ensure the employee’s health and safety to the extent possible, noting the need to continue to operate service.

The table below sets out the total lost time by category accumulated for each of the years 2019 through 2022, it being noted that 2019 is the only year included in the analysis that was not impacted by the global pandemic.

Summary of All Lost Time – Average Days Per Employee 2019-2022
Year Short Term Disability Work-Related Disability Long Term Disability LOA Statutory & Other Other Lost Time Total
2019 9.5 0.2 1.6 3.3 4.7 19.3
2020 12.2 0.2 2.9 5.9 5.4 26.7
2021 8.9 1.8 1.7 6.6 6.6 25.6
2022 8.7 0.7 1.8 4.8 6.6 22.6

As indicated in the chart above, the average lost days per employee has fallen by three days compared to 2021 and by slightly more than four days since 2020. The distribution of this lost time across absence categories has shifted throughout the past few years as a direct result of the pandemic and will be discussed in greater detail in the related sections in this report. Much of the improvement in overall lost time can be attributed to a less severe and prolonged impact of COVID-19 in 2022 compared to 2020-2021. Contributing factors to this positive change include:

  • advances in vaccine technology to protect against new strains;
  • more effective treatment and prevention toolbox of vaccines and boosters, oral antivirals, and home test kits;
  • growing population immunity to the virus;
  • decreased lost time associated with individual COVID-19 cases;
  • public health guidelines with respect to isolation requirements being reduced; and
  • improved efficiency in disability claims management (as it pertains to COVID-19 claims) by the Commission’s Employee Benefits provider combined with reduced COVID-19 illness periods

Aside from lost time associated with and/or affected by COVID-19, administration continued to manage absenteeism and disability management through dynamic approaches, strategies and evolving initiatives combined with the consistent application of same. Such ongoing initiatives include:

  • greater emphasis on management responsibilities in terms of supporting London Transit’s Mental Health Strategy;
  • continued communication to employees regarding attendance management policies and programs consistent with practical and legal realities;
  • analysis of incidents, causes of disability and absenteeism, as well as identification and implementation of initiatives to reduce same;
  • effective integration of the duty to accommodate within the organization’s culture, relevant policies and programs; and
  • ensuring a culture that encourages all parties to work cooperatively and effectively respond to collective attendance issues.

Disability Management

Disability management encompasses both compensable sickness and injury (i.e. job-related, and therefore subject to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act) and non-compensable (i.e. non-job-related, and subject to the terms and conditions of London Transit’s wage replacement insurance program as provided under the current insurer, Desjardins Financial Services – DFS).

Disability management is an increasingly important and complex area to manage given the significant financial exposure associated with actual claims and the myriad of legislation (i.e. Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Employment Accessibility portion of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation under the AODA). Additionally, the Collective Agreement includes provisions pertaining to the Return to Work program, which is critical to disability management.

London Transit’s Return to Work Program

A progressive Return to Work (RTW) program for both compensable and non-compensable disabilities is a key element of London Transit’s Disability Management Program. Employees who are off work are required to provide functional abilities information from their attending healthcare practitioner. This information is compared to the employee’s pre-disability position’s physical and cognitive demands. If the employee cannot be accommodated to return to his or her pre-disability position, temporary alternative work is explored. A range of value-added temporary alternative work, such as interior bus cleaning, customer service work, light-duty work in Fleet and Facilities and/or administrative areas is considered. Costs and progress are monitored with the ultimate objective of returning the employee to full and normal duties. The RTW program is critical in that it provides an alternative to employees remaining on income replacement benefits pending a return to full and normal duties. The program supports employees performing productive work (versus not working) even if it is outside their normal classification. The RTW program offers benefits to both the employee (e.g. reduces or eliminates lost earnings, helps reduce social isolation, helps maintain a sense of confidence and value) and the employer (e.g. retention of experienced employees, better productivity, effective management/containment of non-attendance cost).

The RTW program was implemented in response to the duty to accommodate disabled employees arising from the Ontario Human Rights Code. The program continues to evolve as case law in this area expands in terms of what is considered a reasonable and suitable accommodation for a disability. As such, managing these programs while still complying with legislative requirements can be a challenging exercise. Three component parts define the RTW program:

  • Modified work – any job or bundle of tasks within an employee’s pre-disability position which he/she may perform without the risk of re-injury to themselves or others. This work may consist of regular tasks that have been changed, redesigned or physically modified. If necessary and if it can be reasonably accommodated, there may be a reduction in time or volume of work performed.
  • Work Hardening – involves tasks within an employee’s pre-disability position designed to condition the body and gradually improve strengths and tolerance, to the point where he/she can once again be considered able to perform the essential duties in his/her pre-disability position.
  • Alternate work – involves temporary short-term alternate work, which will be considered for employees who cannot perform the essential duties of their pre-disability position or cannot be accommodated by way of modified work and/or work hardening. Alternate work that may be available temporarily will not exceed 12 weeks, except by approval of the General Manager, in consultation with Human Resources.

There continues to be increased reliance on London Transit’s RTW program for both compensable and non-compensable disabilities, and it is anticipated that this trend will continue. The overall program’s costs in 2022 were $285,000.

Short-Term Disability (STD)

The following table summarizes the change in lost time associated with Short Term Disability (STD) over the past four years.

Short-Term Disability and Employment Insurance (1) Lost Time 2019-2022
Year Operations Fleet& Facilities Admin & Mgmt Total
Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee
2019 5,409 10.9 550 5.2 290 5.3 6,249 9.5
2020 7,019 14.3 803 6.3 549 8.0 8,371 12.2
2021 5,316 10.4 447 3.7 507 7.1 6,270 8.9
2022 5,204 9.8 643 5.3 469 6.2 6,316 8.7
(1) under the wage replacement program, employees have a period between eligibility for STD benefits and LTD benefits which they are eligible for Employment Insurance sick benefits

In 2022, the number of short-term disability claims increased by 60% compared to 2021, however despite this increase, the duration of disability claims decreased by 22%, resulting in an overall decrease in the number of days per employee as compared to previous years. Based on the insurance carrier’s information, the increase was directly tied to COVID-19 and most of these cases were resolved within two weeks. Notwithstanding the relatively short timeframe of these claims, they are large in number and are anticipated to significantly impact the employer benefit renewal in 2023.

Although the number of mental health-related claims remained relatively stable, the duration of these types of claims was significantly lower in 2022, resulting in an overall 50% reduction in benefits paid. Contributing factors to this positive change may include the continued implementation of LTC’s Mental Health Strategy, management’s increased focus on employee support, restored ability to obtain medical support, and improved return to work support through the insurance carrier.

Long-Term Disability (LTD)

The following table summarizes the change in lost time associated with Long Term Disability (LTD) claims over the past four years.

Long-Term Disability (1) Lost Time 2019-2022
Year Operations Fleet& Facilities Admin & Mgmt Total
Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee
2019 840 1.7 192 1.8 1,032 1.6
2020 1,722 3.5 165 1.3 111 1.6 1,998 2.9
2021 558 1.1 205 1.7 407 5.7 1,170 1.7
2022 1,016 1.9 321 4.2 1,337 1.8
(1) Cases, where COD has been approved and no likelihood of RTW are not included in the above Stats

On average, the number of approved LTD claims and corresponding lost time has been relatively consistent over the four years. When reviewing the average days per employee in the table above, consideration needs to be given to the relative size of the employee group in question; noting a long claim in a small group can significantly skew the average days per employee.

Since the onset of the pandemic, individuals have experienced delays in their healthcare treatment, which directly impacted the duration of all claims. In mid to late-2022, healthcare services started to become more accessible again, and as such, it is anticipated the duration of some claims will be shortened going forward.

Compensable Injuries and Illness – Workplace Safety Insurance Board

London Transit’s Health and Safety Program has a clear mandate/objective to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and related absences. Notwithstanding the program and various initiatives, compensable injuries and illnesses do occur. Such claims must be promptly and properly investigated, processed and monitored. This begins with a feedback loop to the Joint Health and Safety Committees in terms of investigating and understanding the event giving rise to the injury or illness, taking preventative steps in the future, and where warranted, enlisting the assistance of an ergonomic consultant. It also includes active management of claims, including liaising with the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) and appealing approved claims that administration feels are not compensable under the Act. In addition, London Transit utilizes an outside consultant for more complex claims management and representation when claims appeals are heard.

The following table summarizes the change in lost time associated with compensable injuries and illnesses over the past four years.

Workplace Job-Related Injuries/Illness (1) Lost Time 2019-2022
Year Operations Fleet& Facilities Admin & Mgmt Total
Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee
2019 135 0.3 25 0.2 160 0.2
2020 155 0.3 9 0.1 164 0.2
2021 1,280 2.5 7 0.1 1,287 1.8
2022 474 0.9 19 0.2 493 0.7
(1) Cases, where there is no likelihood of RTW are not included in the above stats

The employer has the most control over this area of lost time through safe work practices and procedures and the effective implementation of annual Joint Health and Safety Work Programs. In addition, the existence of a progressive RTW program and a significant investment in claims management, assessment, and prevention has helped keep these numbers down.

Notwithstanding the employer’s traditional control on these types of claims, in late 2020, the Province announced that a COVID-19 infection in the workplace was to be considered a WSIB claim and should be reported. As a result, there was an increase in approved WSIB claims in 2021 directly related to COVID-19. As the pandemic progressed, it became increasingly difficult for individuals to determine the source of contraction, and as a result, individuals filed their claims through short-term disability.

WSIB Premium

Effective January 1, 2020, the WSIB NEER Program was replaced with a “Rate Framework Program”. The following provides a high-level summary of the “Rate Framework Program”, noting that until such time as the employer has experience with this new program, the impacts of same on annual costs will be difficult to estimate.

  • Under the Rate Framework Program, WSIB will adjust each employer’s premium rate in the fall of each year based on past experience rating and providing a projection as to whether the employer is trending upward or downward with their premium rate. Depending on their experience rating over a rolling six-year period, an employer’s premium rate will increase or decrease based on risk bands established in the program.
  • London Transit’s premium rate for 2020 was $1.70 (per $100). In 2020, WSIB advised that all employer costs associated with COVID-19 relating to claims will not be allocated at the employer or class level. Instead, they will be allocated on a Schedule-wide basis. Further, WSIB advised that the premium rate for 2020 would not be subject to change in 2021. The 2022 premium rate was decreased to $1.60 (per $100), based on LTC’s overall positive performance; however, based on some complex, challenging claims over the last few years, an increase in premiums is anticipated in the coming years.

Given that this program is relatively new, administration will continue to assess the potential impacts concerning the RTW Program, disability claims management, and the expanded active claim period from four to six years.

Leave of Absences (LOA) per Statute and/or Employment Contract/Agreements

Absences due to leaves can be paid (e.g. bereavement) or unpaid (e.g. pregnancy and parental), and the employer has little or no control over this lost time. As such, these absences are considered statutory/legislative in nature. The following table sets out the Leaves of Absence for the four years 2019 through 2022.

Leaves of Absence – per Statute and/or Employment Contract/Agreement 2019-2022
Year Operations Fleet & Facilities Admin & Mgmt Total
Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee
2019 1,883 3.8 275 2.6 13 0.2 2,171 3.3
2020 3,625 7.4 398 3.1 38 0.6 4,061 5.9
2021 3,867 7.6 674 5.5 100 1.4 4,641 6.6
2022 2,676 5.0 809 6.7 27 0.4 3,511 4.8

During the pandemic, lost time in this category reached a record high of almost double that of a normal year. In 2022, the associated lost time began to return to more historical rates yet remains high compared the pre-pandemic period. Contributing factors to this change include;

  • most employees had utilized their three days of paid leave (related to COVID-19) prior to 2022; and
  • family accommodation leaves decreased substantially due to the reopening of schools for the majority of 2022.

Other Lost Time

Non-attendance captioned as other lost time (no disability benefits are payable) has increased slightly over the four year period. Non-attendance in this category covers such cases as one-day illness and/or sporadic illnesses, non-job-related injury, book-off personal, absence without leave, late to work and non-compensable days in which approval for an STD/LTD claim is either pending, denied, withdrawn or no further action is required. Absences in this category also have a negative impact on the organization’s ability to provide service. The following table summarizes the lost time associated with this category for the four year period 2019 through 2022.

Other Lost Time – No STD, LTD or WSIB Benefit Payable 2019-2022
Year Operations Fleet& Facilities Admin & Mgmt Total
Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee Total Days Avg. Per Employee
2019 2,544 5.1 282 2.7 226 4.1 3,052 4.7
2020 3,262 6.7 194 1.5 272 3.9 3,728 5.4
2021 3,968 7.8 283 2.3 393 5.5 4,644 6.6
2022 3,738 7.0 612 5.1 491 6.5 4,841 6.6

In 2022, lost time under this category remained high, again directly attributable to the pandemic. Employees who experienced COVID-19 symptoms were staying home (noting the list of symptoms expanded throughout the year), ensuring their safety and that of their co-workers’, per the Ontario guidelines and Health Unit guidelines recommending same.

Normally most of these types of absences are managed through the Attendance Management Program (AMP) as “monitored absences”, separate and apart from the disability management process noted earlier in this report. However, as previously indicated, the AMP was paused in order to provide a more focused approach on ensuring employees had the necessary support to attend work on a regular basis. Enhanced communications were distributed, reminding employees that support, including their supervisors, are available if needed and encouraging those having difficulties to reach out. The Attendance Management Program has been re-implemented effective 2023.

The Cost of Non-Attendance

The cost of absenteeism is generally defined from three perspectives:

  • productivity cost, i.e. impact on available productive hours, workload allocation issues and related opportunity costs addressing the allocation issues;
  • administrative cost relating to staff time managing absences and the impacts of same; and
  • financial costs relating to increased complement requirements, overtime costs and impact on employee benefit costs.

The annual cost associated with non-attendance, considering the above, ranges between $2.2 million and $2.7 million. The estimated cost accounts for approximately 5% of the $53.1 million in annual personnel expenditure, which includes all earnings and employee benefit costs. Personnel costs account for approximately 60.3% of the $88.1 million total operating budget for conventional and specialized services.

Given the nature of the service provided, an average of approximately 80% of all non-attendance is managed via increased complement, with the balance being replaced as overtime or not replaced at all. The need to replace the lost time defines the nature of public transit, i.e. providing scheduled service to customers noting the majority of employees are Operators whose responsibility is to deliver on-road service. The decision to replace non-attendance with the hiring of additional staff or replace as overtime is predicated upon an assessment of key inputs, namely:

  • the nature and extent of service requirements, which are variable by time of day, day of week and time of year;
  • the number, timing and duration of periods of absences;
  • the impact on efforts and capacity to fill work assignments;
  • efficiency considered work rules/requirements – the cost of hiring/employing replacement staff vs. applying overtime;
  • the impact of legislative changes, and
  • the impact on the quality of work life.

A complement assessment is undertaken on an annual basis in an effort to determine the appropriate Operator complement to ensure service requirements can be met while at the same time mitigating the extent of the need for personnel to be available to fill shifts for same day absences.


As the impacts of the global pandemic continue to wane, employers should see a return to more consistent and regular attendance; however it is recognized that traditional work environments are going through a shift in dynamics, and London Transit will need to ensure the programs and policies in place provide the employer with the ability to impact lost time, while continuing to support employees positively.

Recommended by:

Julie Hall, Manager of Human Resources

Joanne Galloway, Director of Human Resources

Concurred by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager