Health Canada Assessments - Fitness to Work Evaluations

From Union News April 2008

The employer may require an employee to attend a Fitness To Work Evaluation (FTWE) or more commonly called a Health Canada Assessment. The employer must have a valid reason for requesting the assessment, some of those reasons may include the following: 

  • an employee has been exposed to an unexpected occupational health hazard, such as a chemical spill; 
  • an employee appears to be having difficulty in performing the duties of the position or
  • an employee's actions appear to be affected by health related factors;
  • an employee is absent for a lengthy period and a return date has not been established or
  • an employee is returning to work after a period of medical leave and there is concern about his/her fitness for duty.

The employer must obtain the consent of the employee for the assessment and must complete a Health Canada Job Analysis, which outlines the reason(s) for the assessment. It is important to note that the employee has a right to be provided with a copy of the reasons for the assessment. If there are any concerns with the content of the reasons, the employee is strongly advised to discuss this with the physicians.

The FTWE is carried out by occupational health physicians, with input from the employee's personal physician or specialist upon the employee's written consent. Following completion of the evaluation, both the employer and the employee are provided with a written report concerning the employee's health capacity to carry out the duties of the position and outlining specific limitations or physical restrictions. The assessing health professional discloses to the employer only information that enables the employer to take appropriate measures, e.g. information on limitations related to the health requirements of the position. Confidential medical information is not provided unless it is required to determine appropriate accommodation strategies or options and is provided with the written consent of the employee. 

It is important to note that an employee may see a private physician. The Agency shall provide the approved Heath Canada medical form or an Agency medical form and a description of the work, including the hazards, the extent of exposure and the use of protective equipment. The private physician completes the form and, with the written consent of the employee, forwards it along with any laboratory test results in confidence to the Health Canada health professional, who will determine if the form is complete and necessary tests carried out. The individual's written consent should also include an agreement for the assessing health professional to communicate with the employee's examining physician. Subsequently, an assessment is forwarded by Health Canada's occupational health professional to the Agency and the employee. 

If you have any issue with a request from the employer for a Health Canada Assessment - Fitness to Work Evaluation, you should seek assistance and advice from your local union representatives.

Chris Aylward
Chairperson UTE National Health and Safety Committee