Any good employer should be well-aware of their own responsibilities in the return to work process. But there’s the other side of the coin: the employee’s responsibilities. You’ll need to have a good understanding of what you have a right to expect if you want to ensure a smooth return to work process that gets your employee safely back to work without a costly, lengthy, derailment that’s all too common.
Here’s what you should expect from your employee as they recover.
The Employee Must Seek Immediate Medical Treatment Following a Work-Related Injury or Illness
If an issue is bad enough that it requires time off work to recover, then it’s also bad enough that the employee should be receiving reliable medical advice on how to deal with it. Obviously, this is for the good of the employee, but it also allows the employer a degree of certainty essential for compensating for an absence.
The Injury or Illness Should be Reported to the Employer As Soon as Possible and Communication Should be Ongoing
As an employer, you may not be privy to specific, personal medical details, but you do need to be notified of the issue, and receive sufficient and timely information to plan around the absence.
The employee should also be in contact with you early in the process, once medical advice has been sought. The return to work discussion should begin as soon as appropriate, and communication lines should remain open during the recovery period.
They Must Be Willing to Undertake Suitable Work Opportunities
An employee may not be able to return to their full responsibilities immediately, but they should be willing to work with you to identify productive, safe tasks that they are able to do on a graduated timeline, should these tasks exist.
Any Change in their Condition or Expected Recovery Date Should be Communicated
Prognosis is a prediction but it can’t be right all of the time. When things change, if a broken bone takes longer to heal than expected, or if an illness takes a turn for the worse, the employee should communicate this to you.
If you find it happening over and over, you might want to start thinking about your options. More on those soon.
The Employee Must Be Co-operative
It may not be the employee’s fault that they’re injured or ill, but that doesn’t mean they are malingering, exaggerating their symptoms or inventing new ones. It also doesn’t mean they should be prolonging the recovery period longer than is necessary. If you feel you’re not united under the goal of a safe, appropriate return to work, you shouldn’t let the problem linger.
Independent Medical Evaluations — A Tool for Clarity and Expediency
If you start to get a feeling that the situation isn’t working with you, that the condition is suspect, that you aren’t getting adequate communication on their progress, there is something more you can ask of them. And the sooner the better to avoid medicalization.
Depending on the circumstances, you can request an Independent Medical Examination (IME). These IMEs can get you an expedited medical opinion from a specialist to provide the clarity you may need to help the employee back onto the path for a safe return to work. Eliminate your uncertainty and get the issue resolved before costs balloon out of control.
Need somewhere to get started? Our Medical Director Dr. Roger Hodkinson is always available for a quick, no-obligation chat at 780.433.1191.