Preparing for employees to take a disability leave for an illness or injury can be a stressful experience for benefit and HR managers. With a full plate of work on top of arranging for reasonable accommodations, it can be difficult for managers to figure out where to start the process and when — or how — to bring in resources.

Recent data from Standard Insurance Company (The Standard) shows that only 37% of HR managers are confident in the way their organization handles employee disabilities and accommodations.[1] Although there are common pain points that many HR managers experience, managing and executing reasonable accommodations doesn’t have to be difficult — especially with the help of a disability carrier.

Here are some commonly asked questions I’ve received about the accommodation process and how you can work with your disability carrier for assistance:

1. “How can I proactively help an employee who might need to take a disability leave to deal with health issues?” With an at-risk employee, start by reaching out to a disability carrier’s consultant, such as a nurse, mental health or vocational consultant, to discuss that exact employee’s issue. Preventive measures, such as ergonomic accommodations or temporary job placement, can help ward off additional injury or strain that may be exacerbated by the employee’s job role.

If the employee is already out on a disability leave, a consultant also can help with return-to-work plans. Ideally, this can aid in making the employee’s transition back to work smooth, as it provides the best possible solution for the employee while also taking medical limitations or restrictions into account.

2. “How can I help an employee with the claims process, when I’m confused, too?” Navigating disability claims can often be time-consuming. Luckily, disability carriers have consultants who can often serve as an extension of the benefits and HR team. They can help an employee navigate through the claims process, including helping recommend the best approach to keeping him or her at work and productive.

3. “How can I make the most of my employee wellness program?” You’re likely already providing extra resources to help your employees stay well — and stay at work. Make the most of these programs by matching at-risk employees with the right resources or survey employees to learn which types of resources — such as employee assistance programs and wellness/disease management programs — would be most beneficial for them.

Here, too, is where disability consultants can help — they can ask the tough health-related questions for you and help encourage employees to connect with the appropriate resource. It’s likely, too, that consultants can direct employees to other carrier benefits that are part of your current benefits package.

Knowing how to answer common disability management questions and recognizing the value your disability insurance carrier and consultative resources bring can help you better serve your employees and employers.

[1] Data based on a survey of 300 respondents and conducted in September 2014 by a third-party research firm hired by The Standard.

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