October 1, 2014
When people want to return to work after battling a serious illness, the last thing they need to do is battle negative workplace policies, practices and attitudes that could be changed with HR’s proactive attention and help. Following are five of the most important steps employers should take in making the transition stage for returning workers more successful.
- Communicate with existing and prospective employees in plain English (or plainly in the languages your employees use) about what the policy does and doesn’t allow. Most people don’t "speak insurance" and don’t understand the "explanation of benefits" published by insurers.
- Spell out the provisions of your disability insurance coverage with the "return-to-work" phenomenon in mind, so that prospective employees and recruiters who interview them can know right away how to calculate their risk.
- Make sure employees know about the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a personal or family medical crisis.
- Educate employees about people returning to work after battling a life-threatening illness, explaining why they pose no threat to anyone else’s health. Of course, never disclose the specific diagnoses of any individuals. This should be part of your general education and training of employees.
- Think about your attitude before you ask about that gap in the candidate’s employment history. Are you able to welcome back into productive worklife a person who has faced down a life-threatening illness—and won? What’s the attitude toward returning to work from disability leave among your interviewers and recruiters? Will they deny you access to this skilled, highly-motivated labor force?
Workforce, June 1998, Vol. 77, No. 6, p. 106.