The Department of Labor (DOL) has submitted an Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) information collection request proposal titled, “Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network [RETAIN] Demonstration Project and Evaluation.” The agency is seeking public comment under the Paperwork Reduction Act regarding a new program led by ODEP in partnership with DOL’s Employment and Training Administration and the Social Security Administration to “test the impact of early intervention strategies that improve stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) outcomes” of individuals who experience a disability while employed.
SAW/RTW programs are aimed at returning ill or injured workers to productive work as soon as medically possible during their recovery process by providing “interim part-time or light-duty work and accommodations.” The proposed program will operate through grants to state and local agencies that choose to participate in exchange for detailed information about program administration and outcomes.
Although the project is not currently aimed at the private sector, it raises a potential opportunity for federal contractor employers, particularly those that are currently scheduled for OFCCP’s new 503 (disability) focused reviews.
Employers that have or are developing programs aimed at retaining sick or injured employees should take credit for these efforts in OFCCP audits, especially 503 focused reviews. Such employers could also benefit from participating in the public comment process (offering to share information with ODEP about their programs, successes, and challenges). Participation in the public comment process itself can be a form of good faith effort.
Biddle Consulting Group (BCG) has long partnered with WorkSTEPS, the leading national provider of functional pre-employment and post-injury testing programs used by corporations nationwide. Corporations use WorkSTEPS’ proprietary tests to determine the overall fitness of employment candidates to perform essential job functions and tasks. BCG has partnered with WorkSTEPS on PAVE – a tool designed to develop validated physical ability tests for a variety of jobs. Providers like WorkSTEPS can assist employers that are seeking to review their policies and practices with regard to SAW/RTW programs and/or developing such programs from scratch.