When helping employers navigate the world of employee disability leaves, the No. 1 question I get is: “When can I expect my employee to return to work?”

In most cases, an employer isn’t aware of the proper course of action for determining when or how to help an employee return from a leave of absence. To make things more complicated, there are multiple pieces of legislation that affect the way these situations need to be handled. Consider:

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers (with more than 50 employees) to grant an employee with a serious health condition up to 12 weeks of leave to deal with a medical issue.
  • Alternatively, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act requires an employer to provide accommodations, which may include extended medical leave, to an employee with a disability to help them in the workplace.
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Also see:2016’s best places to work, part 1.”

When navigating an employee’s return to work, it’s important for your clients to understand that they need to be considering both laws. But it can still get tricky. If an employee, who is out on leave, is approaching the 12-week mark, the employer has to make a decision: do they extend the leave? How does the employer proceed?

HR managers aren’t privy to an employee’s medical information that might help determine a proper course of action. That’s where you and your disability insurance provider can help. As a consultative resource, it’s crucial to educate your client on how their disability insurance carrier can help them determine a course of action. Here are a few ways some disability carriers can help:

  • Communication. Some disability carriers provide consultants to keep the conversation between your client and their employee open and ongoing. These consultants can reach out to the employee to see how he or she is doing and gauge when they can consider returning to work.
  • Assess return-to-work potential. A consultant can communicate directly with the employee’s medical team to gather information about the employee’s condition. After speaking with the employee and his or her doctor, the consultant can provide straightforward information about when the employee can get back in the office and what accommodations he or she may require. Whether that’s an extended leave or accommodations in the workplace to help reduce the employee’s symptoms and boost productivity, the consultant can relay that information and provide suggestions to your client.
  • Take work off everyone’s plate. Coordinating with all parties involved while also operating within the bounds of multiple laws can be confusing and taxing for an HR manager, especially on top of their other responsibilities. Having an expert on these cases can eliminate a lot of stress and extra work for your client.

Also see:2016’s Best Places to Work, part 2.”

To be the best consultative resource you can be, educate your clients on how they can get the most out of their disability program. Not only does it help ensure that an employee can return to work the right way, at the right time, it can also help a client stay on the right side of legal regulations.

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Brian Kost

Brian Kost

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