Case Management: Building Trust Helps With Accommodations

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Todd Meier

A common misconception among employees is that, if they reach out to the employee assistance program (EAP), their employer will find out about their health problems or see their medical records. While this isn’t true, employees may consider the EAP an extension of the employer instead of an employer-provided resource. Because of this misunderstanding, an employee may not seek or receive the help needed to improve their health.

A third-party consultant can often help change this perception. Third-party consultants, such as a consultant from your disability carrier, may often recommend EAP services as part of their overall case management approach. With this type of case management focus, the emphasis is not solely on finding accommodations for the employee — it’s also about understanding an employee’s unique situation and connecting him or her with a full-scope of services to improve their overall health.

To see this relationship in action, consider a case recently referred to the Workplace PossibilitiesSM program by a manufacturing company’s safety manager. The employee was diabetic, and his uncontrolled blood sugar had led to porous bones and swelling in his feet. These painful symptoms caused the employee to take intermittent leaves, which of course wasn’t good for productivity.

Gathering All of the Facts

When the employee was first referred to Workplace Possibilities, it was to help mitigate the pain he was experiencing in his foot. The consultant gathered information to help form a viable, accurate solution for the employee’s condition. However, the consultant took into account all aspects of the employee’s job, learning everything from how much walking the employee does, to the temperature of the facility. That’s because these factors may aggravate the issue and require consideration when planning appropriate accommodations/modifications.

Finding a Solution

To help address the employee’s issue with foot pain, Workplace Possibilities provided a referral to a foot specialist and the purchase of a diabetic insert for his shoe. While orthotics may seem simple, the shoe made a world of difference for this employee. Less pain meant fewer days staying home from work and, ultimately, greater productivity.

However, because this employee experienced symptoms related to diabetes, the consultant also recommended the employee reach out to the employer’s EAP for diabetic counseling. Here, the consultant can help the employee get to the root of the issue and help improve the quality of life for someone living with a chronic disease.

Conducting Necessary Follow-Up

After the full scope of services has been implemented or recommended, a consultant can follow up with the employee to see how they’re doing. Did they reach out to the EAP and schedule an appointment? Does the employee still feel pain? The consultant also is available to the EAP should the program want to follow up on the accommodation that was implemented. This multifaceted collaboration ensures the accommodation is working as intended.

Removing the Burden From the Employer

Another benefit of using the help of a consultant is that this is their whole job. Their singular focus is finding the root cause of this employee’s issue to come up with the best possible solution. This can help you, as an HR manager, breathe easier, knowing these employees are receiving the help they need to stay healthy at work.

With effective case management, a respectful and trusting relationship can be developed, leading to effective accommodations. This includes being connected with any additional services they may benefit from — all without adding to HR’s already lengthy task list. In the end, healthier and more engaged employees mean a reduction in intermittent absences and leaves.