School districts have unique challenges when it comes to absence and disability management. While employers in all industries struggle when an employee with a medical condition is out of the office, a teacher missing school can have a profound impact on student achievement rates.

With school systems reviewing their benefits policies this time of year, now is a great time for these employers to think about disability management challenges and consider if they could benefit from a comprehensive disability management program.

There are a number of challenges that school groups commonly face in regard to managing employee absence and disability. These include:
· A lack of preventive programs to help identify an employee who could benefit from accommodations or assistance early on
· Not understanding that transitional duty or adaptive equipment can be provided to help an educator return to the classroom when they aren’t back to 100% capacity
· Helping to support an educator after they return to work

To help overcome these challenges, use these tips to uncover the best solution:

1) Understand the types of health conditions you are facing
No two groups are alike, and the type of health conditions a group sees can vary depending on the age of educators in the district, or if the school group’s disability plan includes other staff, such as janitors, bus specialists and administrative staff.

2) See what integration is happening between health management vendors
Has the district broken down silos between its vendors? It’s important to see if, or how, HR staff is recommending employees connect with existing resources — such as their employee assistance or disease management program — to get them the services they need.

3) Identify if your disability carrier specializes in return-to-work or stay-at-work assistance
It’s important to understand what your current system is to identify an at-risk employee who may require a disability leave later, or how they help bring back an employee who has gone on leave. Related to this is understanding the group’s culture and associated stakeholders who are involved in the disability process.

4) Look into the current carrier’s expertise with educational groups
While a disability carrier should serve each school group independently to solve its specific challenges, disability carriers with experience serving the needs of school groups can be a strong asset to work with. Carriers with a deep expertise in working with educational groups understand the unique challenges these roles entail, and can leverage years of experience in finding and implementing accommodations.

These four tips can help uncover a school group’s current attitude and process toward helping its employees stay healthy and productive. If the group is unable to answer even one of these questions, or is lacking in a certain area, it’s a prime opportunity to retool benefits offerings.

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Brian Kost

Brian Kost

Kost is the program director for Standard Insurance Company’s Workplace Possibilities program.