Your company's return-to-work philosophy and human resources policies will guide you in decisions about return to work with restrictions. In general, return to work with restrictions, whether it is part-time, modified work, or a transitional work assignment is very effective in speeding up the employee's transition back to full time and full capacity. Depending on the disabling condition, people usually return to full function more rapidly if they can return to work sooner, even if this means initially returning to work part-time or with functional restrictions.
There are two basic types of accommodation for returning an employee to work with restrictions (on a reduced-time schedule):
Ask the employee if the reason that he or she is out is related to the covered disability without asking about the employee's medical condition. If the absence is not related to the disability, you, as the manager, decide how that time will be accounted for (i.e., a sick day, a vacation day, a personal day, etc.), and the modified work will continue. If the absence is related to the disability, you should call the claim manager to determine if the modified work will continue or if this will become a new claim. Some scheduled absences may be approved while the employee is on modified work, and you should contact your HR representative to discuss the specifics.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help if your other staff resent the increased workload caused by a coworker being out on disability.
Example: The EAP counselor can assist you in finding ways to address your staff's feelings of resentment without revealing the reason for the disabled employee's absence.
Common fears that your employee may have about returning to work after a behavioral health disability include:
When you look at this list, it’s easy to see why someone may fear returning to work. However, many of these beliefs may not be accurate and/or supported by the facts. As a manager, you can help allay unrealistic fears.
Most people who are away from work for an extended period of time experience fear about returning to work. If your company offers an employee assistance program, you may want to suggest employee assistance counseling to the employee. An EAP counselor can also be a resource for a manager dealing with an employee who expresses fears about returning to the job.
Accommodations for employees returning to the job after a behavioral health disability should be developed in partnership with the disability claim manager on a case-by-case basis. But there are common examples of accommodations that can be used as a guide. The types of accommodation a person with a behavioral health disability needs may involve minor changes that cost little or nothing.
A person with a behavioral health disability might experience difficulty with some of the following:
While some job accommodations may be permanent, modified-duty positions should be time-limited. The employee should be expected, over time, to return to his or her fullest functional capacity. This requires periodically reviewing the employee's performance and assessing the accommodation. It helps if your company has a policy for creating job accommodations and a documented process for resolving conflicts that might arise.
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