Each employer has specific return-to-work policies predicated primarily on safety concerns on a job-by-job basis. For example, someone sitting at desk might be more functional than a person driving a forklift if both are returning to work while taking prescription pain medication.
It’s important to communicate with employees about your policy on a regular basis and not just on paper. Use new employee orientations, safety meetings and training sessions to reinforce important messages about your return-to-work policy and the risks and potential safety issues related to using prescription drugs, including opioids, while at work.
Following are recommendations for employees returning to work using pain medication:1
- Require employees to provide a letter to their supervisor from the prescribing health care professional stating the ability to work while taking a schedule II or III narcotic opioid
- Based on the nature of the work environment and safety considerations, determine if an employee using an opioid can function in the workplace with minimal risk; if risk is not considered minimal, continue disability status to eliminate any safety concerns
- Certain jobs may not allow for employees using ongoing pain medications for safety related concerns (e.g. driving a vehicle, forklift, operating heavy machinery)
Key aspects of practical return-to-work/stay-at-work policies include:35
- Employee FAQ explaining the process and providing key contacts
- Supervisor conversation script to ensure proper questions are asked consistently
- Medical provider letter and workability form that properly outline capabilities
- Acknowledgment of limitations or capabilities aligned with work assignments
- Interactive guidelines to manage the accommodation process
- Benefits coordination letter when overlapping into workers’ compensation, FMLA and group health