Knowing what to say and what to do to help support an employee who is returning to work after a disabling condition can be challenging. Clients say that managers often have trouble recognizing when someone needs help, do not know how to provide the appropriate resources and do not stay up to date on the latest company policies. While this is common when dealing with disability management, employees’ needs cannot go unnoticed or unaddressed because it could hinder overall workplace productivity.
Fortunately, the responsibility of managing employees’ return-to-work assistance does not have to fall solely on at clients’ feet. As you prepare to meet with your clients, think how you can present the advantages of outsourcing a disability management program to help alleviate common fears clients may have when handing over their return-to-work assistance program.
Look for a customized fit
To avoid a “plus and play” offering, some disability insurance carriers can be flexible in partnering with an employer and learning all about their employee population, other vendors in their benefits program, the employer’s current process and key stakeholders to keep in the loop. Taking the time to learn about an organization’s current process and important players allows a carrier to help create a disability management process that fits each client’s needs and culture.
Once the disability carrier has an understanding of how a client works, a disability consultant will help develop a program that is aligned with the organization’s policies and procedures and helps meet the needs of its workforce. The program will help identify the right accommodations for employees, and incorporate resources from a client’s other benefits vendors to create a consistent analytical process. Putting the right process in place can be crucial to a successful, organized return-to-work program that helps keep employees comfortable and productive in the workplace.
Consider a neutral vendor
Some disability carriers have consultants who work alongside a client to coordinate employees’ return-to-work plans. These consultants are experts in their field (including behavioral health and vocational assistance) and partner with an employer to make sure an employee is getting the support he or she needs to return to work.
This support often includes connecting with the employee on a claim to check in and see when a return to work may be possible. Disability carriers can work with the employee’s medical team to discuss work restrictions or limitations and collaborate with the employer on a return-to-work plan and potential accommodation ideas. The consultant’s job also includes documenting the process and keeping everyone in the loop, alleviating the worries a client may have about being cut out of the process.
Monitoring an employee’s progress and providing recommendations on potential plan modifications can help ensure an employee is getting the assistance they need and improve their overall return-to-work experience. Any updates or adjustments needed would be communicated to the client, but having a dedicated consultant manage the day-to-day interactions can help put time back in a client’s schedule to attend to other responsibilities.
Focus on ADAAA compliance
When complying with The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 stipulations, many employers are unsure of how to implement the appropriate accommodations that meet regulation standards. While disability carriers do not replace the employer’s responsibility to comply with the ADAAA, they can offer valuable assistance in helping to comply with the law.
Disability consultants can rely on their expertise to guide clients through the decision-making process to determine reasonable accommodations that meet their employees’ needs and align with ADAAA regulations. The consultants can provide their recommendations on reasonable return-to-work assistance options, but ultimately, no decision is made without a client’s signoff. This helps to ensure the consultant and employer are in lockstep and allows the client to maintain control over the final decision-making process.
A disability consultant also can help manage the ADAAA compliance paperwork. This takes some of the burden off HR managers and frees up their time to be reallocated elsewhere. Given the nuances of ADAAA, outsourcing this responsibility to an industry expert helps ensure the latest standards are being met and documentation is kept up to date.
Working with a disability carrier can save clients time, and relying on the carrier’s expertise can help improve employees’ overall return-to-work experience. Providing rationale and proof points on how an outsourced return-to-work program could fit with your client’s organization may be the push they need to consider this viable option.
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