Business Resources and Services from Disability Awareness Author / Speaker Gary Karp

Stay-At-Work / Return-to-Work

A New Movement for Workers Who Acquire Disability

Current workplace culture thinks of disability as something one "goes on."

"Going on" disability is very costly. Dollars go to benefits and premiums, productive work hours are lost, maybe even a valuable employee is lost. That means even more expense and loss as you search, recruit, interview, train – and maybe have to do it all over again!

And what of employees who "go on" disability? They lose the self-esteem and sense of value that comes from work. They lose the chance to make a difference with all of their hard-won education and experience.

There's a new model growing in business. It's called Stay-At-Work / Return-to-Work, part of what is sometimes called Integrated Disability Management.

SAW/RTW is about appropriate balance. It's a win-win, meeting the best potential of both the employee and the business.

This is the spirit of Modern Disability: to first ask, "How can this employee adapt given their current impairment?"

Perhaps she can stay on the job at full capacity with an accommodation. Perhaps she can go on transitional or modified work – shown in studies to increase the chances of return to full employment. Or perhaps she should best partake of disability benefits because it is simply the last resort – and hopefully a means of returning to work capacity.

  • It can seem easier to recommend disability.A Little More
  • SAW/RTW can reduce complaints and conflict.A Little More
  • Does your organization have a transitional work policy?A Little More
  • Transitional work is also about privacy.A Little More
  • SAW/RTW saves money.A Little More
  • When your organization commits to what is best for an employee, you're doing what's best for business. An assessment of an impaired worker's capacity to contribute creates the best chance of their returning to full work as soon as possible – and results in a more loyal employee.

    The American College of Occupational Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) has put together a definitive document with SAW/RTW guidelines. It includes a great table describing a scaled proccess of assessment and participation by various parties. Required reading!


    Less benefit payments. Less benefits management. Less absence. Less overtime to make up lost hours. Less stress on colleagues and managers. For starters.
    When colleagues observe someone on modified duty, there can be questions and resentments. Privacy prevents you from explaining. A transitional work policy avoids this problem. Everyone will know what's going on.
    When employees know that they have a right to modified work when appropriate, they will already be on that page if they acquire an impairment.
    When people feel that they weren't given the chance to discover what they can do, to remain independent and productive, they are more likely to file complaints.
    Anecdotal stories abound of people who want to continue working, but were directed by a manager or a benefits person to "take the benefits."