In the undertaking of Functional Capacity Evaluations as well as Case Management, I am often asked to comment on “special accommodation” that may be implemented to allow a specific employee to either remain at or return to work following physical or mental illness or injury. It is accepted that such implementation of the “special accommodation” must not place undue hardship on the employer or on other employees but what is not always considered is the attitude of colleagues when someone is given what may be seen as favouritism by Management. For example, if Mrs Smith is allowed to work from home three days a week, why can’t we all be given the same “luxury”? This kind of attitude can lead to resentment from employees directed at both Mrs Smith and at Management, and as we all know, resentment can lead to sub-optimal performance, increased absenteeism and a whole host of negative behaviours that will adversely affect the success of your business.

So how do you as Management deal with this? Should you simply not ever entertain “special accommodation” and adopt the attitude that if someone can’t do their job under normal circumstances, they must go?” I don’t think so because a very simple alternative that will allow you to retain the services of a valuable employee by accommodating them as deemed necessary, is to have a briefing session with the team to explain the reason/s. Human beings like to know what is going on and in a situation such as this they will generally accept the explanation and even support it and the person that is being accommodated. Without an explanation they will often jump to wrong conclusions, which is when problems arise.

The briefing session has to be agreed to by the employee that is being accommodated as some details about their health will need to be made known to their colleagues. My experience is that they are almost always willing for this to happen as it is in their own best interests. The person to chair the briefing session can be someone from Human Resources but the Occupational Therapist that made the recommendation is usually a better option as he/she best understands the reasons for the implementation and is also not an employee of the company therefore cannot in any way seen to be favouring any party.

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