The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act obligates many of your clients to provide reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees. However, do they know employee accommodations can help improve workplace productivity?

Providing accommodations can help reduce employee absenteeism and presenteeism, the type of productivity loss associated with employees working through medical conditions. Accommodations also can help prevent employee disability leaves, because employees can receive the assistance needed to help reduce or mitigate symptoms associated with illnesses or injuries.

Accommodating a key employee

When a school district learned one of its administrators was experiencing acute lower back pain due to a chronic condition, it intervened quickly before the condition worsened. The employee was responsible for the district’s funding and grants. If he were to miss work because of his medical condition, programs that support student achievement could have been at risk of lapsing, exposing the school district to larger financial challenges.

Instead, the district implemented a successful, proactive accommodation to get him the help he needed to stay at work. Not only did this reduce his pain, it kept this valuable employee on the job instead of on a disability leave.

Early intervention

When the school district’s HR team learned of the employee’s condition, it immediately reached out to us for assistance. Some disability carriers work directly with an HR department, the employee and his or her medical team to determine how to best address the employee’s medical condition in the workplace. This assistance can include a stay-at-work accommodation, such as workplace equipment or resources to treat the condition.

Workplace evaluation

After conversations with the risk management department, as well as visiting the employee to learn about his job functions and daily duties, our consultant found his workstation setup was exacerbating his chronic condition. This type of accommodation is common, as musculoskeletal system and connective tissue disorders remain the leading cause of new and ongoing disability claims. Twenty-nine percent of new long-term disability claims in 2014 resulted from musculoskeletal conditions, which include muscle, back and joint disorders, according to the Council for Disability Awareness.

Equipment implementation

To address the employee’s issue, we ordered equipment: a three-stage work surface desk that helped him transition from a seated to standing position to minimize discomfort, as well as an adjustable keyboard tray to eliminate the tingling sensation he experienced. The school district’s disability plan covered all costs for equipment, installation and the consultant’s time; the school district paid nothing out of pocket.  

The accommodation eased the employee’s pain and improved his productivity. Not only did the school district avoid a disability claim, it ensured federal funds continued to flow into the district to support student learning.

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

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of 1100 SW Sixth Avenue, Portland, Ore., in all states except New York, where insurance products are offered by The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York of 360 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 210, White Plains, N.Y. Product features and availability vary by state and company, and are solely the responsibility of each subsidiary. Each company is solely responsible for its own financial condition. Standard Insurance Company is licensed to solicit insurance business in all states except New York. The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York is licensed to solicit insurance business in only the state of New York.

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