Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Finding return-to-work opportunities is quickly becoming a nearly insurmountable challenge, as companies increasingly issue layoffs or furloughs due to the coronavirus pandemic. What had been realistic possibilities a few weeks ago are going by the wayside.
It’s especially problematic for injured workers with permanent restrictions, who can never return to their former employers. Typically, they work with vocational rehabilitation specialists to learn new skills and forge new career paths. But the current environment does not bode well for them.
“When things neutralize, they are going to need advocates more than ever,” said Natalie Torres, senior director of Client Solutions for Workfinders USA. “They’re going to need real advocacy to get them in a room with an employer because the numbers of Americans doing that is going to be massive.”
Torres says building relationships will be key to helping these injured workers ultimately get interviews, or at least meet with prospective employers.
For injured workers in light duty positions, the goal is to help them maintain that work where possible. The nationwide company is somewhat unique in that it works extensively with non-profits and charities to match injured workers to voluntary positions. That’s become tricky of late.
“If you go back three weeks to March 16 when things really started, we had to start adjusting day by day with hot spot markets and state governments making adjustments for society, such as ‘shelter in place’ orders,” Torres said. “Working with those things coming together we maintained close relationships with charities to keep injured workers safe and [in the positions] as long as possible … if it was suitable and if they hadn’t been asked to stay home.”
Despite the current situation, the company is having success keeping workers in light duty positions and even finding new ones. In some cases, for example, injured workers have been sent to work in shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries, as long as the injured worker is safe and feels comfortable in that setting. Part of the process is to make sure the injured worker will flourish while working in the non profit surrounding. At the moment, that means finding areas with the greatest need and where the injured worker can thrive.
“There’s no one solution,” Torres said. “We are continuing to unfold and evolve with this epidemic and tailor our systems and processes to do the best things we can.”