Could Your Organization Benefit From A Functional Capacity Evaluation?

Guest Blogger Samantha Langan, Occupational Therapist

In the world of return to work, there are a variety of different assessments that exist. With the many different types and crossover amongst them, it can be very confusing for employees and employers to know which sort of assessments they could benefit from in regards to return to work. This blog can shed some light on one such assessment, known as the Functional Capacity Evaluation or FCE.

Functional Capacity Evaluations have been used since the early 1970s as an objective assessment of an individual’s ability to perform work related activities. In the past, these were frequently performed by Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists and Ergonomists. Today, Occupational Therapists remain optimally suited to conduct FCEs due to their strong task analysis skills. This is helpful considering the different purposes FCEs can have. FCEs can be used to set goals for rehabilitation and readiness for return to work, examine residual work capacity, screen for physical compatibility before hiring a new employee, determine disability status and assist in case closure or settlement. As such, FCEs can vary from all inclusive, such as when looking at case closure, job specific, such as when making a match between an employee’s abilities and the job description, or injury specific, such as evaluation for upper extremity demands after surgery for carpel tunnel.

When completing an FCE, the examiner will often begin by reviewing the client’s medical records and conducting an interview with them. Next, musculoskeletal screening is often completed, and if there are no contraindications, evaluation of the client’s physical performance in relation to static and dynamic tasks will be conducted. A comprehensive report is then compiled, which contains information regarding the client’s overall level of work, tolerance for work over the course of the day, individual task scores, job match information and level of participation (such as self-limited or cooperative). This report often also contains recommendations and interventions for consideration moving forward. It is important to be aware that thorough FCEs include all of the physical demands of work as defined by the National Occupational Classification 2011 proposed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Furthermore, a well-designed Functional Capacity Evaluation should not only be comprehensive, but it should also be standardized, practical, objective, reliable and valid.

For more resources on workplace wellness check out our Healthy Workplace page.


Haruko Ha, D., Page, J.J., Wietlisbach, C.M. (2013). Work evaluations and work programs. In H. McHugh Pendleton and W. Schultz-Krohn (Eds.)
Pedretti’s Occupational Therapy Practice Skills for Physical Dysfunction (337-380), St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby.