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Employer Assistance & Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN): A service of The Viscardi Center.
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Disability Management Programs

The concept of Disability Management has evolved out of necessity as employers face increasing issues related to employee absence, engagement, productivity and demographic changes among their workforce.

The goal of Disability Management is to minimize the impact of impairment from injury, illness or disease on workers' ability to participate in the workplace and to return to meaningful and productive work following an absence.

Disability management programs are designed to prevent the exit of valuable employees due to health conditions, aging and other factors associated with disability. These include preventative wellness and work-life balance programs that help minimize absences, retain current employees and reduce the need for and cost of sourcing, hiring and training new employees. 

What Are the Organizational Benefits of Disability Management Programs?

An effective disability management program reduces the human and financial costs associated with absence, disability, healthcare, return to work, and workers' compensation claims and ensures that organizations are able to retain diverse, knowledgeable and experienced employees.

How Can My Organization Implement a Disability Management Program?

Employers looking to implement disability management strategies should consider program integration, flexibility and relationship of outcomes to strategic company goals.

According to the Certification of Disability Management Specialists (CDMS) Commission, disability management spans four domains:

  1. Disability and work interruption case management- Employers should analyze and review their disability case management interventions, services and community resources.
  2. Workplace intervention for disability prevention - This includes solutions that optimize the health and employment situation of employees by incorporating barrier-free workplaces; providing the necessary productivity enhancers; engaging in open communication between employees and supervisors; and supporting employees through flexible work policies and practices.
  3. Program development, management and evaluation - This includes the creation and implementation of individualized return-to-work and work-retention plans, coordination of benefits, monitoring of program progress, documentation, and evaluation.
  4. Employment leaves and benefits administration - Employers should manage employment leaves, payroll and data collection, health and benefit plans, and identify issues associated with work interruptions and employment leaves.

What Specific Strategies are Successful in Disability Management?

Rehabilitation technologies and disability management resources are available on the market to facilitate employees' participation in the workplace. Often, disability management programs enable employees with disabilities to work with no need for accommodations. Some of the most effective disability management strategies include:

  • Adopting wellness initiatives to increase employee health
  • Providing flexible work arrangements and supports to reduce work-life balance conflicts
  • Developing attendance management policies and programs consistent with the practical realities of work/life balance of employees
  • Effectively integrating accommodations, relevant disability management policies, and human resources programs (such as EAPs) into the company's culture
  • Investing in resources and trainings that help managers and human resource professionals effectively implement disability management programs
  • Developing a workplace culture that encourages collaboration to effectively balance the interests of employees, their healthcare professionals, managers, and human resource professionals


Other Resources

Return to Work Toolkit<>
This Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy resource provides information, tools, strategies and resources to assist employees and employers with the return-to-work process.

Disability Management Employer Coalition<>
The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) provides employers with information, strategies and resources to improve workplace productivity through better absence and disability management.

Employment Laws: Medical and Disability-Related Leave<>
This Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) resource provides information to assist employers in gaining a better understanding of employment laws.

Page last updated on Tuesday, September 10, 2013