With complex situations a challenge when it comes to return-to-work planning, an active commitment to accommodation is important, according to a speaker at Benefits Canada’s Calgary Benefits Summit.

“First, you need to promote accommodation to mitigate risk,” said Judith Plotkin, vice-president of growth and strategy at ReedGroup.

If they don’t provide accommodation, she noted, employers are at risk for complaints, litigation and grievances.

There are also compelling financial reasons to get people back to work quickly. “If an employee is back to work in less than three months, there is much greater likelihood of a full return,” said Plotkin. “If an employee is off for two years, however, their chances of returning to work are nearly zero. The longer they are off, the less likely it is that they will ever come back to regular full-time duties.”

What’s key is for employers to make every possible effort to accommodate the employee, said Plotkin. And whatever the return to work looks like — whether the employee resumes regular duties in the same position as before with only minor adjustments, returns to another role or retrains for a different assignment — the job the person comes back to must be meaningful.

Read: The merits of assessing ‘benefit plan hygiene’

Following best practices for return-to-work planning requires taking a multi-pronged approach that involves the employee, managers and the team, Plotkin noted. Returning to work, she said, can involve resources such as an employee assistance program, a case manager and the human resources department, and the employee’s reintegration into the workplace should be welcoming. There’s a direct correlation between success when employees first return to work and careful planning with plenty of followup, Plotkin noted. “If you can make the time to do this properly, your results will be greatly improved.”

It’s also important, she added, to clearly understand the person’s job, its physical and cognitive demands and the employee’s functional limitations. And employers, according to Plotkin, can take steps to prevent relapse. “As an employer, do you have a peer-to-peer program or an advocacy program?” she said, emphasizing the need for a managerial presence with someone overseeing the return to work, handling regular followup and monitoring morale.

Read: Conference coverage: 2017 Calgary Benefits Summit

“It’s important to embrace accommodation and modified duties to create a culture that welcomes back employees after a disability leave,” said Plotkin. “It will make a big difference in the success of that person’s return to work, their stickiness to the workplace and their long-term post-disability success.”

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

Join us on Twitter

Add a comment

Have your say on this topic! Comments that are thought to be disrespectful or offensive may be removed by our Benefits Canada admins. Thanks!

* These fields are required.
Field required
Field required
Field required