The Social Work and Social Service Work Act defines the term “incapacitated” as meaning that a member is suffering from a physical or mental condition or disorder such that they are unfit to carry out their professional responsibilities and should not be permitted to practice, or that their certificate of registration should be subject to terms, conditions or limitations.

A College member with a physical or mental condition or disorder that is being appropriately managed may not meet the definition of “incapacity”:  for instance, a visually impaired person working in an adapted setting or a person who has a mood disorder that is taking appropriate steps to manage their condition.  Such individuals may not necessarily meet the definition of incapacity.

Incapacitated members can suffer from:

  • Physical illness or impairment
  • Mental illness or mood disorders
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Other cognitive, sensory, physical or degenerative impairment

Warning signs

In general, people who suffer from substance use/abuse issues or who have inadequately managed mental illness or mood disorders will experience deterioration in their personal lives before there is a notable impact on their professional lives. Often, they are able to function in the employment setting for some time before there is clear deterioration in their professional lives. This is especially true when substance abuse issues are present. Consequently, a person’s incapacity may be significant before it is noted in the professional setting. The following are some common warning signs that a member may be incapacitated:

Physical changes

  • Change in appearance, more unkempt and/or tired-looking, weight loss
  • Frequent shaking and/or sweating
  • Slurred, slowed or rapid speech

Behavioural changes

  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Significant anger, anxiety, irritability, depression or mistrust
  • Withdrawal from friends, colleagues and social activity
  • Frequent breaks from work
  • When questioned, denial that there are any concerns

Performance changes

  • Increased errors in common or rote tasks
  • Increased client or colleague complaints
  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Frequent absences