Identifying Suitable Employment Policy 21-417 | Effective Date: November 18, 2010


The purpose of this policy is to provide criteria for determining that occupations meet the definition of “suitable employment” as defined by the Workers’ Compensation Act (WC Act). WorkSafeNB uses this definition to:

  • Monitor suitable employment provided by accident employers;
  • Determine suitable employment goals during return to work with an alternate employer; and
  • Determine suitable employment for estimating capable earnings.       


This policy applies to injured workers who require accommodations or new employment with the accident employer or an alternate employer.


1.0 General

WorkSafeNB has the authority to determine that employment is suitable as defined by the WC Act and as it applies to return to work, rehabilitation planning, and estimating capable earnings. To ensure that suitable employment meets legislated requirements, WorkSafeNB adheres to the guidelines provided in this policy and ensures that its decisions are based on credible information and evidence. For more information, see:

Through its decision-making process, WorkSafeNB may also use information provided by health care professionals with specialized training and expertise in the fields of occupational therapy and vocational rehabilitation to identify employment groups or a single occupation considered to be “suitable employment” for an injured worker.

The WC Act defines suitable employment as appropriate employment that a worker who suffered a personal injury by accident is capable of doing considering the worker’s:

  • Physical abilities; and
  • Employment qualifications.

The employment also must not endanger the health, safety or physical well-being of the worker.

WorkSafeNB also further defines suitable employment to mean:

  • Employment for which the injured worker may reasonably become qualified to perform;
  • Employment that does not endanger the health, safety or well-being of other workers in the workplace;
  • Employment that allows an injured worker to achieve optimal earning potential; and
  • Employment that reasonably exists in the current labour market.

2.0 Suitable Employment During Return to Work with the Accident Employer

WorkSafeNB monitors return to work activities to ensure the accident employer provides injured workers with suitable employment. This employment may be the pre-accident employment, with or without accommodations, or another job with the accident employer.

The suitable employment identified may also be a job for which the injured worker could become capable of doing with some training provided by the accident employer.

Once accommodations or alternate employment is provided, WorkSafeNB may gather evidence to verify that the employment is suitable. This may include:

  • Reviewing functional capacity assessments to ensure the injured worker can perform the essential duties of the employment;
  • Ensuring the injured worker has the skills, qualifications, and training to perform the essential duties of the employment;
  • Validating that the employment does not impede recovery or put the injured worker at an increased risk of further or future injury; and
  • Ensuring the injured worker’s participation in the employment does not endanger the health, safety or well-being of other workers in the workplace.

2.1 Comparable Worksites

Suitable employment may also be a job the accident employer has available at another worksite. This worksite must be considered comparable to the worksite at which the injured worker previously worked.

WorkSafeNB determines that the worksite is comparable when it is within a reasonable commute from the injured worker’s residence or within the geographical boundaries previously travelled by the injured worker.

If the suitable employment is at a site that is not comparable, the accident employer may offer to relocate the injured worker in order to continue employment.

3.0 Suitable Employment During Return to Work with Alternate Employers

 When an injured worker does not return to work with the pre-accident employer, WorkSafeNB manages the development of a return to work plan, which focuses the injured worker’s rehabilitation on return to work with an alternate employer.           

WorkSafeNB develops a return to work plan and bases the employment goals on suitable employment the injured worker:

  • Already has the transferable skills to perform; or
  • May reasonably develop the skills to perform.

In these cases, the suitable employment must also reasonably:

  • Allow an injured worker to achieve optimal earning potential; and
  • Exist in the labour market.

Before implementing the return to work plan, WorkSafeNB communicates to the injured worker that the employment goal and salary identified will be used to estimate capable earnings if employment is not attained at the conclusion of the return to work plan.

3.1 Injured Workers’ Earning Potential

Employment that is suitable as a return to work goal (employment groups or a single occupation) also provides injured workers with the opportunity to achieve the best possible wage potential given the injured worker’s pre-accident earnings, functional capacity, education, experience, skills, qualifications, aptitudes, and other factors influencing re-employment.

WorkSafeNB uses the National Occupational Classification (NOC) as the primary tool to identify the essential duties of employment, when determining suitable employment for injured workers.

WorkSafeNB uses regional labour market information, when available, published by federal or provincial government sources to determine suitable employment and wages. Graduate survey data provided by community colleges or other post-secondary educational institutions may also be considered.

3.2 Suitable Employment Reasonably Existing in the Labour Market

WorkSafeNB must also ensure the suitable employment goal reasonably exists in the current labour market. WorkSafeNB does this by using resources such as:

  • Federal or provincial labour market information; and/or
  • Locally advertised job opportunities.

With communities and regions being affected by varying economic conditions, all jobs may not be equally available in all areas of the province. Whenever possible, WorkSafeNB uses available information to identify suitable employment within a reasonable commute for the injured worker.

When unsuccessful, WorkSafeNB must identify employment outside the commuting area to facilitate return to work. WorkSafeNB identifies suitable employment using the following priority:

  • Within the injured worker’s home area;
  • Within the injured worker’s region;
  • Within the province of New Brunswick;
  • Within the Maritime Provinces; then
  • Within Canada.


When an injured worker has an offer of employment, but the commute is not reasonable, WorkSafeNB may provide relocation assistance.

WorkSafeNB provides relocation assistance when:

  • The injured worker secures permanent employment that is expected to continue for a period of at least one year. The injured worker must provide written verification from the employer of this employment;
  • The distance between the injured worker’s current residence and the new place of employment is greater than the reasonable commute; and
  • In the view of WorkSafeNB, relocation is necessary to achieve the objectives of the rehabilitation plan.

The feasibility of relocation is considered as part of the cost-benefit analysis during return to work planning.

Relocation Expenses

WorkSafeNB reimburses reasonable expenses related to the transportation of family members and household items, by ground or air, whichever is less, on terms and conditions acceptable to WorkSafeNB.

Reimbursement of relocation expenses by other agencies or from the alternate employer is deducted from the amount of assistance provided by WorkSafeNB.

4.0 Suitable Employment for Estimating Capable Earnings

The suitable employment used to determine estimated capable earnings is typically identified during vocational rehabilitation planning and communicated to injured workers before the return to work plan begins. Once all vocational activities are completed, or the vocational plan comes to an end, WorkSafeNB calculates the injured worker’s estimated capable earnings by identifying suitable employment that is based on all transferable skills and qualifications, including those acquired during vocational rehabilitation.

In cases where a return to work plan has not been developed, or it is not appropriate to develop one, WorkSafeNB uses regional and national resources to identify suitable employment that may reasonably exist in the current labour market before estimating an injured worker’s capable earnings.

Policy 21-210 Determining Average Earnings

Policy 21-113 Decision Making

Policy 21-400 Rehabilitation

Policy 21-420 Return to Work – Principles

Policy 21-421 Vocational Rehabilitation

Policy 25-014 Medical Aid Decisions


Government of Canada, Human Resources Development Canada Job Futures website:

Government of New Brunswick:


Appeals Tribunal – means the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal established under the WHSCC & WCAT Act.

Optimal earning potential – the best possible post-accident wage potential given the injured worker’s functional capacity, education, experience, skills, qualifications, aptitudes, and other factors influencing re-employment.

Reasonable commute – defined by WorkSafeNB as:

  • 75 km one-way from the worker’s place of residence or the worker’s pre-accident commute (whichever is greater); and
  • One that the worker has the functional ability to travel.

Suitable employment – appropriate employment that a worker who suffered a personal injury by accident is capable of doing, considering the worker’s physical abilities and employment qualifications and which does not endanger the health, safety or physical well-being of the worker. (WC Act)    

WorkSafeNB – means the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission or "the Commission" as defined by the WHSCC & WCAT Act.

E-News Sign-up