As an HR professional, your employees’ health is a top priority. Everything from physical health, mental health, productivity, and engagement are major contributing factors to running your organization effectively. Employee benefits and worker's compensation have a great deal of common ground when it comes to your employees' health, but we often overlook the importance of managing the crossover between the two.
Short-Term Disability Policies
Improving your employee benefits can lower your worker’s compensation frequency. The relationship between the two is often overlooked, but they have a direct impact on each other. For example:
- A short-term disability (STD) policy shows the employer cares for employees, which encourages top talent attraction and retention.
- The STD policy helps prevent a weekend injury from showing up as a worker's compensation claim on Monday.
- When employees know they have a STD policy though their employee benefits and understand how that benefit can help them, the worker's compensation claims can decrease significantly.
Using a relatively inexpensive employee benefit to mitigate worker's compensation claims can make a big difference in managing your risk and preventing unnecessary claims.
When an employer has a well-rounded understanding of emerging issues, it can impact both employee benefits and worker’s compensation. Some examples are the recent coronavirus pandemic, prioritizing mental health for employees injured at home or on the job, opioids and pain management, etc. All of these things have a direct effect on both your employee benefits and your worker's compensation.
Work from home opportunities have a direct correlation to worker's compensation programs since those employees are no longer under a company's roof, but are still considered to be under their worker's compensation program. This presents new risks to worker safety and requires companies to implement new procedures to make sure employees have a safe working environment at home. Exposures to employees working from home can include several factors:
- Increased ergonomic challenges of working from kitchen tables and couches.
- Employees not having a dedicated workspace.
- Increased stress from managing their daily work schedule.
- Balancing additional duties of helping children with remote learning and distractions from working in an environment with family members home.
Providing continuous support to work-from-home employees is key to managing and controlling these exposures.
In order to keep employees safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19, companies have had to revamp and continuously update policies for cleaning and disinfecting facilities as well as updating internal policies for social distancing, wearing masks, and reporting exposures. As we hit the one-year mark of managing traditional and remote workforces, there is a new buzz word on the street: Pandemic Fatigue.
Business Insurance stated in their March 10th article that the term pandemic fatigue is "a term used to describe a state of compounding personal and work stress at a time of easing pandemic mandates and the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination." In essence, companies and workers are starting to get distracted when it comes to safety and pandemic protocols and may be too loose with basic safety controls like social distancing and wearing masks. Companies should continue to implement strong prevention controls and communication with employees about the importance of risk mitigation efforts should be continued through the vaccination rollout.
In addition, when an employee is out on leave due to a worker's compensation injury or illness, oftentimes mental health issues can compound and lengthen the time away from work. Implementing a mental health benefit for your employees through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or wellness program can drastically decrease the prevalence of mental health issues in your employees' lives. Being cognizant of the current concerns in the market will keep you ahead of the curve and help you be prepared for when it affects your employees.
The power of managers making meaningful connections with employees who are on a workplace (or any) injury leave can have a huge impact. Consistent communication with employees while they are out can help them not “sit on paperwork” or become disengaged in the return-to-work process. When implementing your employee benefits, make sure you communicate your return-to-work philosophy. More often than not, employees want to come back to work sooner rather than later! Getting employees back to work sooner not only helps your culture, employee engagement and production levels, but it also can reduce your worker’s compensation premium.
Worker’s compensation premium is determined, in part, by an experience modification factor. The good news for employers is that this is one factor that they can actually manage by implementing a strong return-to-work program. Not all claim costs are included in the experience modification calculation. Medical-only claims, meaning the employee did not miss any work due to the injury or returns to work within the waiting period, receive a 70% discount on the claim costs included in the experience modification calculation. Lost time or indemnity claims do not receive the same discounts on medical costs and, depending on your state laws, will include more medical and lost wages in the calculation. Bringing an injured employee back to work directly impacts your worker’s compensation spend. Controlling your experience modification , and hence your worker's compensation costs, is one of the many reasons for a strong return-to-work program.
Complementing Benefits and Worker's Compensation
Addressing the commonalities of both your employee benefits and worker's compensation departments can be the key to a healthier, more productive workforce. Remember that little things, like taking interest in your employees who are out, can make a big difference in their mental health and engagement in the return-to-work process. A disability policy can be inexpensive, easy to implement, and can save you in the long run with mitigating weekend worker's compensation claims. Ultimately, your employees' health is what’s important to keep your organization up and running. Your employees are the biggest investment you’re making! Keep everyone safe and healthy by complementing your employee benefits and worker's compensation policies.