Three tips for helping clients manage disabilities in the workplace

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Even though employees with disabling health conditions are common in the workplace, many employers are unprepared to deal with them. Whether a back injury is causing an employee pain during the workday, or an individual needs time off for a mental health issue, these situations challenge employers to find ways to properly support an employee while ensuring their business remains productive.

May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, and it’s a good time for advisers to highlight the resources that comprehensive disability carriers can offer their clients to help keep their employees healthy and productive. Here are three tips for getting clients on track:

1. Take a proactive approach
When speaking to clients about disability management, it’s important to learn how they have historically managed employees’ medical conditions in the workplace. Many employers and disability carriers take a reactive approach — only stepping in once an employee files a disability claim. Whether it’s because employers think they can’t help until a claim has been filed or they think it’s more cost-effective to let an employee take a disability leave, these approaches could prolong an employee’s time away from work.

To change your clients’ mindset toward disability management, explain how a proactive approach with a comprehensive disability management program can provide the right support to help them stay at work or return to work sooner after a disability leave.

2. Look at the bigger picture
As I mentioned in my last article, a more comprehensive approach to disability management looks at the whole person and helps address the diverse reasons that could be influencing or delaying an employee’s recovery. Delayed recovery, which is the lengthening of an individual’s medical condition, is an often-overlooked component in the disability management process.

Addressing delayed recovery is an important part of a disability management strategy because the factors that often keep an employee out of work are not always directly associated with their health condition. There are often additional factors that impact an employee’s health, such as financial concerns, complex family issues, or child- or elder-care worries. If these additional concerns aren’t addressed, they can impact an employee’s ability to return to work or be productive in the workplace.

3. Explain the process
Every disability carrier is different, but to help clients understand how a partnership with a comprehensive disability management program could work, explain how carriers can proactively address those factors that are associated with delayed recovery and provide resources to help support each employee individually. This includes:

· Identifying employees in need of assistance: Identifying an employee who may need return-to-work or stay-at-work support is often one of the most challenging aspects for employers. It requires them to take time away from other duties and they often struggle to find the right type of solution or accommodation that meets the employee’s needs.

Some disability carriers can help employers identify these employees in need by knowing which employees are out on a claim, facilitating ADAAA services or by providing support on-site for stay-at-work services to help prevent employees from experiencing a disabling health condition.

· Interacting with the employee to find out what’s going on in his or her life: Once an employee in need of assistance has been identified, many comprehensive disability carriers have consultants available to engage the employee in conversation and better understand what other factors may be contributing to the delay in their recovery.

A consultant can openly talk with an employee to better understand the psychosocial issues that may be impacting him or her and consider the right benefit resources that could help them stay at work or return to work.

· Integrating programs to treat the employee: While a disability carrier can offer robust assistance to help an employee with a stay-at-work or return-to-work plan and accommodations, it also can integrate other resources to help an employee get the full range of support they need. This can include partnering with services to help navigate the health care system during treatment or recovery through referrals to programs from other benefits vendors, including disease management, wellness and employee assistance programs, if needed.

This integration of services can help ensure factors both directly and indirectly delaying their recovery are being addressed with the proper resources.

· Improving outcomes for an organization: With the right support and resources, a comprehensive approach that treats the whole person can help an at-risk employee stay at work or allow an employee with a disabling condition to return to work more quickly.

Connecting a client with a comprehensive disability carrier can help an organization implement a proactive approach that focuses on the whole person — helping to keep employees engaged and productive in the workplace.

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Disability insurance Employee engagement Employee productivity Employee communications Employee relations Benefit management Voluntary benefits Benefit strategies Benefit communication