University of Michigan Work Connections Illness and Injury Assistance

Frequently asked questions for supervisors

What is Work Connections?

Work Connections is an integrated disability management program developed by the University of Michigan to provide assistance when an employee experiences an illness or injury that prevents him/her from working. The program will provide assistance through the employee's recovery and help facilitate a safe 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 employee, 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 employee's 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 your employee or your department to use the services offered by Work Connections.

What happens during the employee's time off for recovery?

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

What about my employee's paycheck or other benefits?

Work Connections is responsible for administration of Workers' Compensation benefits and can answer any questions you or your employee may have about these benefits. Your claims representative will also act as a liaison to help you understand other benefits or responsibilities you or your employee may have 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 me against the employee's wishes?

Health information belongs to your employee and Work Connections guards it appropriately. This means that medical information is kept secure, private, and out of public view. Medical information cannot be sent to the home department, but updates regarding the employee's status, projected duration of absence and medical restrictions are provided regularly. 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 for the Release of Patient Information?

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

Who is responsible for providing necessary medical documentation to justify an employee's absence?

The employee is responsible for providing sufficient medical documentation to justify an absence. Work Connections provides assistance by identifying what medical documentation is needed and, with authorization from the employee, will request it from providers on your employee's behalf. 

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?

Can an employee divulge confidential health information?

An employee may voluntarily choose at any time to discuss a medical situation with anyone. This is a personal choice and is not required but, in many cases, sharing this information may lead to a great deal of support and encouragement.

Can the Authorization for Release of Patient Information be revoked?

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

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

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

What happens when my employee is 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 employee, and your physician to:

What is a return-to-work plan?

A return-to-work plan is developed—with assistance from Work Connections—by you, your employee, and his or her 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 your employee will be fully recovered and able to assume his or her regular duties.