When an employee faces a disability leave, what’s the adviser’s role?

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How many of your clients are in this situation: An employee is living with an illness, injury or chronic condition — which is challenging enough. But, this person is also working, or attempting to try to work. Not only is this employee afraid that he or she may have to take a disability leave, they’re afraid of being labeled at work by managers or co-workers because of their condition.

This fear of being labeled can present itself in a few ways. It may cause the employee to refrain from asking for help to stay at work because they think it would be too expensive or cause a burden on their employer and fellow co-workers. Or maybe they think bringing attention to their condition may make others in the organization think they’re unproductive, or too challenging to work with.

Also see:10 questions to ask about accommodations before allowing employees to work from home.”

The good news is that you can offer your clients multiple solutions to help their employees and help mitigate their concerns over being labeled.

Help your clients provide the right support
Every day your clients may be trying to help employees with everything from arthritis and migraines, to depression and cancer. They’re looking for new solutions to help these employees stay at work and increase productivity. For those who are inexperienced with accommodating employees or who are just looking for reassurance, you may be the first call. If and when that happens, help guide them through managing an employee disability leave with the following advice:

· Partner with your disability carrier. Many disability programs have vocational, nurse and behavioral health consultants who have years of expertise in their respective fields to help with stay-at-work and return-to-work accommodations and plans. These consultants can integrate into your client’s workforce full time, or be available for support via phone or email to help an employer identify the right type of support for an employee. If a consultant is off-site, they can even be on-site at their location within a matter of days, if needed.
· Learn ways to provide support. While it goes without saying, accommodating an employee isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of solution and should take the employee’s job, responsibilities and diagnosis into account. These plans are called stay-at-work plans, if it can help an employee before they are out on a claim, or a return-to-work plan, if the employee is already out on a claim. A consultant will outline the accommodations and tools that can help an employee, and include input from the employee, employer and the employee’s medical team.
· Look for opportunities to integrate resources. Sometimes the best help for an employee is through another insurance carrier’s resources. Disability carriers will often integrate resources from other carriers, including EAP, disease management and wellness programs, to help ensure an employee can get the most out of what is available to them.

A supportive environment is key to helping an employee with a medical condition return to or stay at work in a safe, productive and happy fashion. Providing this counsel to an employee is important to ensure the success of your relationship and to help them understand how much more they could be getting from their benefits.

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