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The LSA Dean’s Office and LSA units have been working successfully with the University Work Connections Office on the management of staff extended medical cases for several years. More recently, we have begun to require Work Connections involvement on similar faculty cases and we would like to be certain that unit leaders understand the advantages and protocol for doing so.
Work Connections is an integrated disability management program developed by the University of Michigan to assist faculty or staff members and units when an illness or injury prevents an employee from working for an extended period of time. Work Connections is available at no charge to all regular employees whether the illness or injury occurs on the job or not.
Work Connections interfaces with other programs and services at the U to ensure the employee and supervisor have centralized access to a wide variety of resources and support. They will, among other things, coordinate the services of nurses, therapists, physicians, and other professionals and ensure that the employee has appropriate return-to-work support such as job analysis, vocational rehabilitation, and ergonomic consultations.
When an illness or injury is reported, Work Connections confidentially gathers basic information about the condition, and offers support to determine how the program can assist the employee and the unit. Participation by Work Connections in the management of extended medical cases ensures privacy for the employee because detailed medical information is not shared with the unit but with this confidential program which then keeps the unit informed about the status of the case without revealing specific medical issues. It is very often difficult for Chairs/Directors or Chief Administrators to play an effective role in assessing medical information and Work Connections, using nurse case managers, having access to a consulting physician, and having permission to speak with health care providers, is in a much better position to do so. In addition, Work Connections can assist with the eventual return-to-work process and help assess the need for any accommodations at return.
LSA will be working with a Work Connections faculty case specialist who will have a good understanding of the faculty work schedule and yearly calendar as well as special concerns that faculty might have. Going forward, extended sick leave in LSA will not be approved without Work Connections involvement in the case.
The following protocol outlines the steps involved in the Work Connections process:
- When a faculty member is unable to perform his or her duties due to illness of more than 15 consecutive business days during an active appointment period, the unit Chief Administrator should consult with the Chair/Director and then send an intake form to the Work Connections Office to the attention of the LSA faculty case manager (Attachment 1).
- The Work Connections faculty case manager will then contact the faculty member to request an Authorization to Release Medical Information form from the faculty member and subsequently a Health Care Provider Report from her/his provider (Attachment 2; Attachment 3).
- Work Connections works with the faculty member and his or her provider to ensure that the faculty member is getting the appropriate access to care, appointment times, and follow-up needed to ensure that the case is being managed effectively.
- Based on confidential information from the provider, the WC faculty case manager will update (by confidential email) the Chief Administrator, the Chair/Director and Deb Erskine in the Dean’s Office on the status of the case (re: approval for pay of extended sick time) and will identify the projected return to work date. This update does not include medical information, diagnosis, etc. as this is kept confidentially only by the WC faculty case manager.
- The Chief Administrator will communicate with Deb Erskine in LSA Divisional Affairs and will process a submittal form to place the faculty member on extended sick time via the HR system.
- Work Connections works with the faculty member throughout her/ his time away to maintain contact on the status of his/her illness and recovery, manage questions about necessary accommodations for return to work, and inform the department when the faculty member is able to return to work. In this way, Work Connections is able to provide a confidential, third-party intermediary between the faculty member and department management.
- The Chief Administrator and Chair/Director will work together with Work Connections to address any special accommodations requested at the time of return to work and also to also identify any need for modified duties assignments based on the timing of the return.
- At the time of return, the Chief Administrator will again initiate a submittal form to return the faculty member to active duty and forward it to Deb Erskine in LSA Divisional Affairs who will process the action in the HR system.
January 11, 2010