University of Michigan Work Connections Illness and Injury Assistance

Frequently asked questions for faculty and staff members

What is Work Connections?

Work Connections is an integrated disability management program developed by the University of Michigan to assist you—and your supervisor—when you've had an illness or injury that prevents you from working. The program will provide assistance through your recovery and help facilitate your return to work.

How does Work Connections work?

Work Connections acts as a liaison with other programs and services at the University to ensure that you, and your supervisor, have convenient and centralized access to a wide variety of resources. These resources include everything from coordinating the services of nurses, vocational rehabilitation counselors, therapists, physicians, and other professionals interested in your recovery to providing you with return-to-work support such as job analysis and ergonomic consultations. 

Is there a cost to use Work Connections?

There is no cost to use the services offered by Work Connections.

What happens during my time off for recovery?

Work Connections staff will assist and support you and your supervisor in the following ways during the recovery period:

What about my paycheck or other benefits?

Work Connections is responsible for administration of Workers' Compensation benefits and can answer any questions you may have about these benefits. Your claims representative will also act as a liaison to help you understand other benefits to which you may be entitled and coordinate communication with the appropriate offices.

What is Workers' Compensation?

Workers' Compensation provides for benefits conforming to state law, which may include wage replacement, medical, and rehabilitation benefits to employees who are injured or become ill as a result of a job-related injury (including death), or disease related to work.

What about confidentiality of health information? Could Work Connections ever share medical information with my supervisor against my wishes?

Your health information belongs to you and Work Connections guards it appropriately. This means that your medical information is kept secure, private, and out of public view. Medical information is never sent to your home department. Maintaining appropriate confidentiality is a fundamental principle of the program. Health information will be released only in the following circumstances:

Why does Work Connections request an Authorization to Release Patient Information Form?

Work Connections services are designed to help you manage your disability and safe return to work. Authorizing Work Connections to obtain your medical information enables us to meet certain University requirements in order to expedite payment of your sick time or other disability benefits. In addition, developing a relationship with your treatment team and obtaining complete medical information is critical to coordinating an effective plan to help you.

Who is responsible for providing necessary medical documentation to justify my absence?

As an employee, you are responsible for providing sufficient medical documentation to justify an absence. Work Connections assists you by identifying what medical documentation is needed and, with authorization from you, will request it from providers on your behalf.

Am I required to authorize the release of my medical information?

No, but providing authorization allows Work Connections to assist you in obtaining all information necessary for your department to authorize the payment of sick time and determine your ability to work.

Can the Authorization to Release Patient Information Form be revoked?

Yes. Authorization may be revoked in writing at any time.

Can I divulge confidential health information?

You may voluntarily choose, at any time, to discuss a medical situation with your supervisor or co-workers. This is a personal choice and is not required. In many cases, though, sharing this information may lead to a great deal of support and encouragement.

What is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996?

HIPAA is a federal law developed to improve the portability of health care coverage for people who lose or change employment, promote administrative simplification through the use of electronic transactions, and ensure the security and privacy of personal health information.

Under HIPAA regulations, can a doctor or treating facility send medical documentation without written authorization?

Will medical information be shared with my supervisor or other departments?

Supervisors who understand an employee's medical issues are often able to provide more support and assistance in identifying return to work options. For this reason, Work Connections encourages employees to disclose information about their medical condition to their supervisor.

What if I do not agree with the plan or actions of Work Connections?

Our primary objective is to provide assistance and support to you and facilitate your safe return to work. If there is a disagreement, discuss your concerns with your claims representative or the Work Connections supervisor. We will work with you to understand your concerns and find a solution.

What happens when I'm ready to return to work?

Work Connections' objective is to facilitate a safe and lasting return to work. Our staff will work with you, your supervisor, and your physician to:

What is a return-to-work (RTW) plan?

An RTW or return-to-work plan is developed—with assistance from Work Connections—by you, your supervisor and your treatment team. Among other things, it includes information about any physical restrictions such as lifting or sitting for protracted periods of time along with a target date on which you'll be fully recovered and able to assume your regular duties.