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When Can I Go Back to Work?


Not everyone goes back to work after a brain injury. For those who do, there are many reasons for wanting to work again. Not only is it a way to earn money, but also a chance to have social contact, structure to the day and stimulation. 

Going back to work needs to be carefully timed to make sure you succeed. Your health must be stable and any lingering symptoms must be well controlled (e.g. seizures and headaches). Also, enough time must have passed after your brain injury to make sure that you have had enough time to recover. 

Here are some important things to think about and resources to guide your way.

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Pieta House photoBuild your skills, abilities and endurance
It is important to prepare yourself for work by maximizing your independence in daily activities such as:

  • Managing symptoms such as headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, seizures, anxiety and depression.

  • Thinking skills (for example, memory, concentration, multi-tasking, problem solving)

  • Personal care activities (grooming, dressing, toileting, bathing)

  • Maintaining personal hygiene

  • Remembering and being on time for appointments

  • Effectively managing your time and activities; organizing and taking part in leisure activities

  • Mobility, including getting around in the community

  • Transportation

  • Managing finances such as budgeting, banking and paying bills

  • Taking your medications

  • Using strategies to manage memory, thinking, fatigue, communication,  emotional and physical changes

  • Planning and decision making

  • Building your physical and cognitive endurance through recreation, courses and/or volunteer work 

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Make sure your abilities match the requirements of the job

  • When you are confident that you can handle your daily activities, think about whether your abilities match the requirements of your previous job.  Or whether a new job would be better.  Will you need to learn some new skills?

  • It is usually a good idea to go back to a familiar job and employer.  This is because your employer is in the best position to make changes to support your needs at work.

  • You may need to consider a different, perhaps less demanding, job or school program in order to succeed at going back to work. 


Checklist for Thinking (or Rethinking) about Employment

This checklist is one tool to help you assess your readiness for employment. On its own, this checklist cannot determine if are ready to go back to work. If the timing is not right for you to be thinking about employment, then there are some recommendations listed at the end of the checklist.

Instructions: For each topic, check off one box (in Column 1, 2 or 3). Total your checkmarks for each column at the end. Review your answers with a health care professional (such as an occupational therapist, psychologist, counsellor, vocational counsellor, or your doctor). After reviewing your answers in the checklist, you and your health care professional can consider the recommendations at the end of the checklist, to help guide you in your continuing recovery and thinking (or re-thinking) about employment.

> Download the checklist as a PDF here

Checklist part 1
Checklist part 2

*Created by the Vocational Rehab Counselling Service staff at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. Psychometrics not tested.


* If you have any feedback about this checklist please send your comments to info@brainstreams.ca.



Wrap-Up and Recommendations:

After you have filled in the checklist, review it with a health care professional (for example, an occupational therapist, psychologist, counsellor, vocational counsellor, or your doctor). Following are some recommendations to discuss with your health care professional:



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When you are ready to look at going back to work, find help

  • If you have private benefits and services (ICBC, WorkSafe BC, work place insurance company) it is helpful to have their employment or rehabilitation specialists help you look at your options and coordinate your return to work .
  • If you do not have private benefits and services, help is available throughout the Province of BC from government sources.To find the closest employment agency, contact Enquiry BC at:     

Vancouver/Lower Mainland: 604-660-2421
Victoria: 250-387-6121
Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-663-7867
Email Address: EnquiryBC@gov.bc.ca


Richmond Centre for Disability - Resources for Career Development

RDC - Resources for Career Development

RDC - Resources for Career Development 2


Identify work place accommodations and adaptations
Work place accommodations and adaptations need to be identified, planned for and negotiated with your employer, insurance provider or employment agency prior to returning to work. Accommodations and adaptations can make the difference between a successful or failed attempt to go back to work.

Some examples of accommodation and adaptations:

  • Developing cognitive strategies for performing specific duties of your job
  • Adapting your equipment and work station to meet your needs
  • Working a shorter day or part time
  • Having frequent rest breaks during the day
  • Making changes to your job duties
  • Planning a graduated (slow, step by step) return to work
  • Attending a work hardening program to build stamina and strength
  • Having a job coach when starting work


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Public Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Employment Program for Persons with Disabilities (EPPD)

  • A comprehensive government program that offers: pre-employment activities, career planning, assessment, job search, job accommodations and training supports
  • Agencies include Triumph Vocational Services, Neil Squire Agency, and Open Door Group
  • Clients can self-refer throughout the province

Service Canada– Varied Employment Programs

  • There are varied programs that offer vocational assessment and counseling, job search, funding for training, and wage subsidy for employers
  • Inquire at your local office
  • Clients can self-refer throughout the province

Education Grants & Supports

  • Students with permanent disabilities and financial need can access funding, services (e.g. note-taking, extended exam time, attendant care) and equipment
  • Meet with advisors for students with disabilities in the counseling department at public colleges and universities
  • For a list of funding options, see www.neads.ca/en/norc/funding
  • For links to all BC vocational resources for all ages, including job search sites, see: www.workinfonet.bc.ca and www.workbc.ca



Created by the Neil Squire Society, The Technology@Work Program is designed to:

  • support employment for people with disabilities in British Columbia who are currently or just about to start working or volunteering
  • provide eligible Assistive Technology, Products and Services to individuals who have work and volunteer related barriers
  • offer services to individuals and employers

Neil Squire Solutions will:

  • Work with you and your employer to find the best solution to meet your needs
  • Help you obtain the Assistive Technology equipment, Products and Services and provide training if required
  • Help to navigate you to other services and supports in the community to assist you on your employment pathway
  • Provide you with the latest information about workplace Assistive Technology from our Resource Centre

For further information about this program please visit our website here>>


Income Sources

After your brain injury, you may be eligible to receive income from the following sources

EI Sickness Benefits

  • Apply at a Service Canada Centre or online. For those who qualify, Service Canada provides EI Sickness Benefitsfor 15 weeks

Persons with Disabilities Benefits (PWD)

CPP Disability Benefits

  • Supports severely impaired individuals (other financial assets are not a barrier)
  • Allows earnings of approximately $4700 and possibly more per year
  • Provides Vocational Rehab services for those who qualify for return to work
  • Application forms are available at a Service Canada Centre or on-line
  • Learn about working while collecting CPP Disability Benefits

Long Term or Short Term Disability Benefits

  • A form of income support related to a job and provided through an insurance company
  • Long-term disability (LTD) benefits often involve two years of benefits while you cannot perform your usual job, followed by an evaluation of your longer-term ability to perform any gainful occupation
  • Check with your Case Manager or Specialist about the features of your plan
  • If you become capable of returning to work, help might be available through a vocational rehab department

Work is not for me – what next?

There are many other ways to build purpose in your life. You can volunteer, take a class and get involved in other leisure interests. All or these can open doors to new opportunities, and new opportunities can take you in many exciting directions


Photo credits: Joe Houghton, Pieta House Centre for the Prevention of Suicide & Self-Harm/flickr (cc)

A project of:


Project launch made possible by:

  BC Neurotrauma Fund via

Rick Hansen Foundation, BC Neurotrauma Fund

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We acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia. 

Brainstreams.ca is an online education and networking site for the Brain Injury Community in B.C. and beyond.

The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.