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Disability Management Helps Employees Return Successfully

Many employers think that all disability carriers are created equal. That’s because they see a disability carrier only as a benefits provider for when an employee needs to take a disability leave.

However, what many employers don’t know is that some disability carriers can help them implement a comprehensive approach to disability management. This type of support can go above and beyond the traditional disability program to identify and support a worker’s specific health condition. This can have many positive results for an organization, namely helping increase employee productivity and potentially reducing the chance an employee would need to take a disability leave.

Recently, a survey conducted by Standard Insurance Company (The Standard) examined the link between disability management and employee productivity. The results suggest that employees who receive support from their employer for physical injuries, chronic conditions, mental health conditions or similar disabilities are more likely to resume productive roles in the workplace.

You can be the trusted advisor your clients need as they put together an effective disability management program. By providing important insights that help demonstrate the need for comprehensive disability management, you can ensure your clients are doing everything possible to help their employees be successful at work.

Employees often take different paths to receive health-related assistance.  

As part of our survey, we asked employees with health conditions who they went to for assistance in the workplace. Their responses were mixed. While 38 percent of employees went directly to their human resources manager, another 38 percent first engaged their direct supervisor. Nineteen percent said they engaged both their HR manager and their direct supervisor together.

For many employees, disclosing a health condition can be intimidating. This apprehension can be magnified when you consider how an employee’s experience could vary based on who they first reach out to for help.

Consider that 53 percent of surveyed employees were scared to bring up their condition with their direct supervisor and 49 percent said they felt they were treated differently by their direct supervisor because of their health condition. However, of the employees surveyed who engaged their HR manager, only 29 percent said they were scared to bring up their condition and 32 percent said they felt they were treated differently because of their condition. This inconsistent experience potentially could hinder an employee’s ability to work through a health condition or return to work after a disability leave.

As part of your counsel, discuss how some disability carriers can help implement a consistent process for identifying and supporting employees in need of workplace assistance. This process should be communicated across an organization to ensure employees are receiving the same resources and assistance regardless of whom an employee first reaches out to for help.

Employees frequently are out on leave longer when they work with their direct supervisor.

As mentioned previously, the type of support an employee receives in the workplace can increase productivity and often aid in a quicker return to work. We found this to be true when analyzing the breakdown of how quickly an employee returned to work after taking a disability leave.

According to our survey results, employees who worked with their HR manager were able to return to work 18 days sooner than employees who worked with their direct supervisor. This may be due in part because HR managers see more instances of employees with disabling conditions than direct supervisors do, thereby having a better understanding of all the services available to workers.

This understanding and support also translates into workers having positive feelings about their employer. Seventy-three percent of workers said their HR manager knew how to support them, while 67 percent said they felt more valued by their employer because they received accommodations assistance.

As part of your disability management conversation, remind clients that their direct supervisors should be well-versed in available resources and trained on how to assist an employee who has a health condition. Disability carriers often can facilitate training to shore up their knowledge. This training often includes how to identify an employee in need, ways to initiate a health-related conversation and when to appropriately communicate with an employee during leave. This will help create a consistent process no matter who an employee asks for health-related assistance.

Workplace accommodations can have a large impact on employees, and don’t have to be complex.

One of the most common ways employers can support workers with health conditions is by providing workplace accommodations. Our survey findings showed that this approach also can be one of the most effective and doesn’t have to be costly.

For example, 61 percent of employees surveyed were given the flexibility to attend doctors’ appointments, 58 percent were allowed to work a modified schedule and 40 percent received workstation modifications. After receiving accommodations, 93 percent of employees believed they could perform their job more effectively.

You can help clients in this regard by reassuring them that a disability carrier can determine appropriate accommodations. While many HR managers are concerned that finding and sourcing accommodations would fall squarely on their shoulders, disability carriers can help create return-to-work or stay-at-work plans that include tailored accommodations for an employee’s specific condition.

Working collaboratively with a disability carrier can result in a supportive environment not just for your clients, but for their employees as well. These survey findings can showcase how a disability carrier can employers implement a comprehensive approach to disability management, which can help employees get back to work sooner and increase their overall productivity.




Tom Foran is the vice president of underwriting and product development for Standard Insurance Company (The Standard). Tom may be contacted at [email protected] .

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