For faculty and staff members facing a medical leave due to illness or injury, the university offers a spectrum of coordinated services that can provide valuable assistance while they are away and help them return to work in a safe and efficient manner.

Some of the services include assistance understanding eligibility for sick time, occupational health services, coaching and counseling services, transitional return to work support, ergonomic assessments and long-term disability benefits.

“The university is committed to creating a work environment where faculty and staff feel supported and know their work is valued,” says Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer and chair of the Integrated Disability Management Coordinating Committee, a coordinating body for the assistance programs.

“Our comprehensive injury and illness services are intended to help them manage the benefits and treatment they need so they can fully recover and return to the workplace when they are able.”

Managing such an absence can be confusing for employees and their departments because of the different university policies and multiple parties involved. Often, employees and supervisors need assistance navigating the process to make sure the absence and return to work are handled properly.

Work Connections, the university’s illness and injury management program, serves as a liaison to make sure that employees and supervisors have access to the services of nurses, vocational rehabilitation counselors, therapists and medical providers. Work Connections disability coordinators and nurse case managers provide one-on-one service and can also help coordinate communication with the benefits office, human resources and payroll.

“Our goal is to help faculty and staff have as smooth a transition as possible through their medical treatment and safely back to work,” says Kathleen Rychlinski, assistant director of risk management and Work Connections.

“We work closely with the employee to make sure he or she has access to the available benefits and services and that the department has the information it needs to plan for the employee’s absence and eventual return.”

Other key partners in providing services to faculty and staff include:

• Human Resources — Representatives work closely with employees and departments to administer procedures related to their employment, including paid time off.

• Benefits Office — Administers the long-term disability plan that can provide a source of income when an employee becomes totally disabled and can no longer work due to illness or injury.

• Occupational Health Services — Provides medical treatment and rehabilitation services for work-related injuries and illnesses available at no cost to employees.

• Faculty and Staff Assistance Program and the UMHS Employee Assistance Program — Provide coaching and counseling services to faculty and staff on campus and in the Health System to help with their return.

• Return-to-Work Program — Helps employees and departments identify transitional assignments to help employees safely get back to work when they are facing changing capabilities.

In recent years, these partners have been collaborating on quality improvement efforts to improve service and communication and reduce processing delays.

As part of their ongoing efforts, the group is planning to engage the university community through an electronic survey that will be sent to a random sampling of faculty and staff members at the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses and the U-M Health System to help improve communications and access to information about illness and injury services so that it’s easier for employees to find when they need it.

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