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Considerations for Navigating Return-to-Work Situations

Navigating an employee’s return to work after a disability leave can be complex. There can be many unknowns, including what questions you can ask the employee about his or her condition, what needs to be put in place for a successful return, and, one of the most important things, when an employee can actually return to work.

Not only are you considering the timelines and requirements of the role that is being left unfilled, your actions are also impacted by numerous compliance laws, including:

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers (with 50 or more employees) to grant an employee with a serious health condition up to 12 weeks of leave to deal with a medical issue.
  • Alternatively, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) requires an employer to provide accommodations, which may include extended medical leave, to an employee with a disability to help them in the workplace.

Once an employee reaches 12 weeks of protected leave, you may feel that you’re at a crossroads. Without information on the employee’s progress, you may feel as if you’re making a blind decision: Do you extend the leave or try to accommodate his or her needs for a return? Thankfully, you don’t have to make this decision alone or uninformed.

Working With Your Disability Insurance Carrier

Your disability insurance carrier may have consultants who can help you communicate with the employee and his or her medical team to assess your options. Here’s how:

  • Communication. Every employee’s return to work will be different, which makes gathering information on each employee’s progress essential for determining the best course of action. Consultants can keep the conversation between you and the employee open and ongoing. These consultants can reach out to the employee, as well as the employee’s doctors, to see how he or she is doing and help gauge when to consider returning to work.
  • Assess return-to-work potential. A medical team and consultants can also gather information about the employee’s condition long-term, helping compare that to the job role requirements. After speaking with the employee and his or her doctor, the consultant can help provide information about when the employee can get back in the office and what type of accommodations he or she may require. Whether that’s an extended leave or accommodations in the workplace to help reduce the employee’s symptoms and boost productivity, the consultant can relay that information and provide suggestions.

You aren’t alone in these challenging decisions. Resources, such as consultants, are available to help. By using these resources and continuing communication with employees, even the most difficult and unique employee leave and return-to-work decisions can be informed.


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