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Question: I have been off work since May 2016 and have been trying to obtain short-term disability insurance since then. My doctor has provided me with three sick notes since then and at our last appointment she told me not to work. However, my application for short-term disability insurance has been denied. I’ve given the disability insurer the notes from my doctor and I’ve gone through the appeal process but have been denied again. My employer is now asking when I will return and I’ve booked an appointment with my doctor to see what she thinks. What should I do?

It is not uncommon for disability insurers to deny an initial application for short-term disability benefits. Often the reason cited for the denial is a lack of medical evidence of a disability. If the only documentation you have provided to the insurer are sick notes from your doctor it is usually of assistance to obtain further medical records from your doctor including something documenting your diagnosis. Often, after receiving such additional documentation an insurer will approve an application for disability benefits. If you continue to be denied benefits, it is likely time to consult with legal counsel. Also short-term disability benefits typically end within 6 months even if you are approved. Ensure you know when these benefits end and decide with your doctor whether you should be applying for long-term disability benefits if they are available to you.

With respect to returning to work you are entitled to rely on your doctor’s advice. If your doctor tells you not to work this should be documented in a doctor’s note and provided to your employer. Forcing you to return to work when your doctor says you’re sick is in breach of human rights legislation and it’s unlikely that your employer will insist on your return to work in the face of your doctor’s advice.