Going back to work with a disability can be daunting, but it can also be looked at in another way. One cannot deny that returning to the workplace while disabled can work as a great self-confidence booster and a self-supporting experience. A disabled employee can bring with himself a plethora of ideas, vigor, talent and skills, just like any regular employee can.
Organizations need to sensitize their staff regarding working with employees who might be facing a certain level mental or physical limitation due to whatever reason. Given the right kind of work environment, a disabled employee can prove to be as capable as any other employee.
While it might not be easy for regular staff to work with a disabled colleague, it is important to remember that the situation is probably tougher for the latter as he needs to perform his duties with new limitations that he himself might be grappling to adjust to. Hence, it is crucial that organizations go the extra mile in helping the disabled employee feel accepted and comfortable at his workplace.
Although disabled staff do not expect any sort of partial behavior from their employer towards them, they do look forward to certain disability-friendly arrangements being made so that they can single-mindedly focus on their work.
Mentioned below are some of the ways in which organizations can meet the expectations of disabled staff returning to work.
Support And Encouragement
Showing your support and encouragement to the employee for coming back to work despite difficulties will go a long way in lifting your employee’s morale. Acknowledge that it hasn’t been an easy time for him and reassure him that his decision of returning back to work is the right one and you are happy to have him back. Make sure that you brief the rest of the staff of the changes in the office to support the employee’s return beforehand to ensure their cooperation. Foster a caring and supportive environment that is thoughtful of the needs of disabled people.
Communicate with your employee on a regular basis and find out about which suitable workplace accommodations you need to bring in place. Maybe it is a special kind of chair he needs or a reserved parking space. Workplace facilities like adaptive office equipment and furniture, wheelchair or a motorized scooter can also greatly benefit disabled employees.
Other accommodations may include flexi-timings, travel assistance, reduced number of hours on site, work-from-home options, part-time work options, private resting area, and so on.
The Department of Social Protection offers a number of grants and support schemes to employers who have a disabled member of the staff returning to work or if they have to hire new staff with a disability.
Make sure that your employee is able to retain his health and disability insurance and derive their benefits without having to undergo long troublesome processes. Besides the insurance, a disabled employee may also be entitled to certain social security benefits provided he meets certain criteria laid out by the scheme. Keeping and availing such benefits might be important while he is still recovering as they help him financially, as well as have a positive psychological impact on him and his family.
Fair And Equal Treatment
As per the US labor laws, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 “prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against and requires affirmative action for qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment.”
According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, “discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance and in federally conducted programs” is illegal.
Additionally, Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) prohibits “discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in any WIA Title I-financially assisted program or activity.”
In addition to the fact that it is the requirement of the law that you treat your disabled employee fairly, you must also ensure to create a work culture where just and equal treatment is meted out to him by everyone.
An employer cannot expect an employee to be fully fit when he resumes work while still recovering from an injury. It would be good to have a counsellor in the organization with whom the employee can talk about his problems and look for possible solutions. Such talks can work as good motivators for an employee who might be experiencing difficulty in coming to terms with his limitations.
The employer and the disabled employee need to work hand-in-glove if they want to create a healthy and disability-friendly working environment that is mutually beneficial. The employer must see to it that the employee is able to adjust to the workplace, while the employee must ensure that he does not take undue advantage of the facilities provided to him.
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