Accommodations Best Practice Guide: Early Return to Work

DMEC Staff@Work

Early Return to Work: Walking the Walk

Early Return to WorkBy Roberta Etcheverry, CPDM

CEO
Diversified Management Group

Based on first-hand experience and feedback from other industry professionals, we know absenteeism results in lost productivity, whereas return to work (RTW) is a “win-win,” generating cost savings for employers and improved health and employment outcomes for employees.1 Yet many employers have struggled to move past “talking the talk” to actually implementing successful programs. Employers face real and perceived hurdles when creating formal RTW programs, including the cost of time and resources to develop and implement as well as the ongoing management required to maintain. Some employers simply may not know where to start.

So how do we go from “talking the talk” to “walking the walk”? The implementation of a transitional RTW program by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) provides some insight. Their challenges were similar to those of other employers, according to Heather Hornbrook, PG&E’s Director of Integrated Disability Management (IDM). One such challenge was addressing the concerns of their collective bargaining units that the program would “take” work from their members. To meet this concern, their IDM team partnered with the labor relations team to clearly explain the program benefits and goals, and send the union representatives updated task assignment lists.

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