Commentary: When dealing with a potential disability leave, there are do’s and don’ts for helping employees stay at work. Even though each situation is unique, there are a number of best practices for helping employees through reasonable accommodations. Here’s a comprehensive look at what makes a stay-at-work accommodation a success.

Do provide assistance.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act broadened the range of qualifying disabilities. Because of this, employers should scrutinize absences for compliance with the ADAAA before an employee is terminated. Employers that don’t investigate accommodations can expose themselves to legal action.

Don’t assume the only solution is disability.

It can be easy to think accommodating an employee with a complex situation is impossible. This is especially true of careers that involve tasks that take a toll on knees, backs and shoulders. But if a disability leave occurs, the employer loses a valuable asset to their team and must take on the difficult task of finding a replacement, be it a temporary hire or existing employees. Instead, make sure alternate options have been fully vetted — and take advantage of outside expertise to help you do this.

Do discuss options with your disability insurance provider.

One on-site consultant recently worked with an assembly line employee who had a serious health condition that resulted in partial paralysis. Her declining health could have led to a long-term disability claim, but the valued employee wanted to stay at work, and the search began for an appropriate accommodation. The result? A custom motorized scooter.

The scooter allowed the employee to move from place to place safely and reach her assembly stations. It sounds like an expensive purchase for the employer. But the scooter was purchased with the employer’s Reasonable Accommodation Expense Benefit from its disability insurance policy. Plus, by retaining this employee, the employer didn’t need to go through the costly and difficult process of finding and training a new employee.

Don’t assume accommodations are too costly.

If you’re unsure of what a reasonable accommodation costs, you’re not alone. In fact, 63% of human resources managers surveyed by The Standard are unsure. Although the accommodation mentioned above may sound expensive, it was completed for less than $2,000.

Many accommodations cost much less than what most people think, especially if you factor in the cost of potential litigation if you don’t provide a reasonable accommodation. Modifying work schedules, job restructuring, temporary assignments and providing assistive technology can make a huge difference for the employee’s health, without a large price tag. There also are direct benefits for an employer, including increased employee productivity and eliminating the costs of training new employees.

Do shift your mindset to “yes.”

By examining the possibilities, you can create an accommodation that benefits the employee and your business. After a thorough examination of the employee’s unique needs and job function, you can follow these best practices to prescribe a reasonable accommodation that keeps the employee healthy and productive at work.

Brian Kost is the program director for Standard Insurance Company’s Workplace PossibilitiesSM program. He holds a master’s degree in career and guidance counseling. He also is a certified rehabilitation counselor and ergonomist.

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