Our parent company, Presagia, is contributing a column to each issue of this year's @Work Magazine, a publication by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). If you haven't had a chance to check out this excellent resource, we highly recommend that you do! DMEC provides best practice resources for our complex industry and @Work is one of many excellent resources that we always stay on top of!
This year's column, Absence & Accommodation Technology, focuses on walking employers through the many considerations they should have as they start to look for leave and accommodation technology, dive into the review process, implement their solution, and maintain a healthy relationship with their vendor post go-live. We’ll also be giving an insider’s look at the many pitfalls employers make when assessing and managing technology, with an eye to helping them avoid these common missteps.
As we did with last year's Technology and Absence Management series, we've created this blog series to share each 2020 column with you! In this post, we're sharing the May column, which reviews the functionality to prioritize while looking for an accommodation management system!
My previous 2020 columns have covered how to lay the groundwork to hunt for technology, the importance of looking at a system’s security, and what to look for in a new leave management system. The next piece of the absence management puzzle is managing accommodations, a growing concern for employers largely driven by an increased focus on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. In fact, employer fees from ADA charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reached $116.1 million in federal fiscal 2019.
When looking for technology to support your accommodation program, it’s crucial to consider the depth of functionality offered by each system you review. At a minimum, you need a system that centralizes all accommodation data. This provides a centralized holistic picture of each employee you walk through the interactive process. Don’t stop with the minimum requirements.; look for additional features that will help you manage accommodations more efficiently and report on key metrics.
Start with recordkeeping. Not every request will support an actual need, but every one should be documented. Common crucial data elements include the initial request with the employee’s restriction to accommodate. You also need accommodation records for every accommodation made for an employee. The most common types of accommodations provided by employers since 2016 have been adjusting work schedules, making the workplace accessible, and providing leave; definitely track these.
Along with these, you should also track assistive/adaptive equipment, modified duty, transitional assignments, job reassignment, and environmental accommodations. Some systems offer cost tracking, allowing you to conduct a cost-benefit analysis if faced with a potential case of undue hardship, as well as report on program return on investment. The ability to add case notes is critical, as the interactive process requires flexibility, and there’s a wealth of information that won’t fit into a standard record such as conversations you have with employees and managers.
This holds true for case documentation as well. You send and receive an abundance of letters and documentation during the interactive process and need to be able to attach them to cases. Some highly valuable attachments are functional capacity evaluations, job descriptions with physical demands analyses, and ergonomic assessments.
Looking beyond the data, a strong system will have features that streamline case management. Your system should provide task management functionality to help you stay on top of cases. Some systems enhance this with automated alerts to remind users of key steps in the accommodation process.
Auto-generating accommodation letters is another huge win when it comes to efficiency. Look for systems that provide the ability to add letter templates for the initial accommodation package, accommodation offer, and other key milestones.
The ability to report on the results of your accommodation program is a must, so look for a system that allows you to report your data. Key metrics include summaries of accommodation requests and their status, time spent on accommodation requests, activity based on location, duration, and occurrences by accommodation type, business unit, and time of year.
The array of features available can seem overwhelming. Ultimately, however, a well-researched solution can play more than just a supporting role as you build out your ADA accommodation program and strive to create a healthier, happier workforce.