3.2 Developing an action plan for inclusion, stay at work, return to work: tips for manager

TIP 1

Identify actions that are realistic, attainable and measurable: the reasonable accommodation

Employers should work with employees who request accommodations to determine whether the accommodation is needed. Reasonable accommodation must be provided to enable a qualified person with a chronic disease to perform the essential functions of the job. This may include changes or adjustments to the work environment as well as access to lunchrooms, to meetings, to social events, etc. Some of the changes can be scheduled in advance, while others are the result of negotiations that are always generated by the issue that makes performing the task difficult.

TIP 2

Define the job description and develop a specific timeline and schedule for completing these actions

Before making reasonable accommodations, the employee should understand the company’s business needs and the essential functions of their job. Employees asking for a reasonable accommodation are required to perform only the essential functions of the job. Having a well-written job description ensures management and the employee are on the same page, and employees get the help they need to perform the tasks that matter the most.

TIP 3

Discuss with employees which reasonable accommodations might help them or those that they prefer

Employees know best what they can and can’t do, and will be more accepting of accommodations they have themselves suggested. That’s not to say all accommodations will work for an enterprise. An employee who assembles widgets on a production line is unlikely to be able to do that at home. However if an employee offers up an idea that is unworkable, managers don’t have to reject it immediately. Instead, they have to take the time to listen and eventually explain the reasons why that particular accommodation won’t do, and find an alternative that will.

TIP 4

Identify resources necessary for completing the activities, including plans for acquiring those resources and answer the following questions

It is important to understand if an employee who is unable to work full-time, could be able to work in a part-time capacity, or do part of the work from home. Moreover, it’s crucial to verify if employees could come to work earlier or stay later to make up time missed for doctor’s appointments. If, for example, there is a
worker who is a machine operator, and  just can’t physically perform his/her duties anymore, the employer should explore the feasibility to shift him/her to do a job that is similar to office work, or assign special projects that may still help the company.

TIP 5

Develop strategies so that employees stay connected

It’s common for employees with chronic conditions to feel isolated from their coworkers and everything that’s going on in the workplace. Efforts to include them in meetings (on conference call or video chat if they’re working from home) should be made as well as involving them in social events, and touch base with them on a regular basis. Reaching out helps them to continue feeling like they are valued team members, and that their company cares for them.

TIP 6

Involve occupational physicians to help employers
evaluate the interaction between work and health

An occupational health physician is a doctor who specializes in managing work-related conditions. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health and vice versa. They step back and assess the individual’s environment, as well as how their overall health can affect their ability to work. They can formulate and administer workers health programs, inspects plants and make recommendations regarding sanitation and elimination of health hazards.

TIP 7

Promote open communication and knowledge on Chronic diseases between healthy colleagues too, to tackle stigma and discrimination

Managers should think of specific actions towards the whole working team, to defeat ignorance regarding chronic conditions so that everyone could understand the value of inclusion and to overcome stigma and discrimination. This could be done for example through online courses, distribution of information sheets or external experts interventions. It would not only help defeating the isolation of employees with chronic conditions, but also it would help healthy employees understand and accept eventual differences in treatments and aids received.

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