Tips on Managing Worker’s Compensation Claims Effectively – for Employers
June 9, 2017
The goal of worker’s compensation is to assist the injured worker during recovery and ultimately see them return to work at some capacity. This series is designed to give those involved in a worker’s compensation claim direction on how to handle a claim from the beginning. This is the 2nd post in the series. The first focused on case managers.
- Apply policies consistently and fairly. Perceived unfairness breeds resentment that prolongs claims[i].
- Train supervisors in return to work management. The relationship between the injured worker and their supervisor has a huge impact on return to work. Poor relationships often lead to drawn-out claimsi.
- Psychological factors impact physical claims. Don’t ignore social, emotional or relationship issues[ii].
When an injury happens: the immediate response
- If you have a return to work coordinator, contact them immediately[iii].
- Avoid treating an injured employee with suspicion. Give the employee clear, constructive advice on the process. Let them know their rights and responsibilitiesiii.
- Respond appropriately in the first 5 minutes and the first 24 hours. The first conversation you have with an injured worker creates a lasting impression. Be supportive and helpful. If you let blame and resentment color the initial interaction, you may be contributing to a prolonged time off – with less chance of returni.
- Be open to discuss the needs or desires of employees – don’t push them away for the sake of “how we’ve always done things.” If their request isn’t possible, offer a fair explanation of why and discuss other ways to help them get what they’re looking for[iv].
Supporting your employee throughout the process
- Be supportive and non-judgmentaliii.
- Allow the employee to feel as in control as possible. The more in control your employee feels, the more likely they are to return to work. Ask what they need and make accommodations as possible. When not possible, explain why and work towards a mutually agreeable compromise[v].
- Discuss issues to discover root causes. Don’t ignore non-physical issues that may exacerbate the injury or may be part of the root causeii.
While an employee is off work
- Maintain contact. This helps the injured worker feel they’re still connected to the workplaceiii, increasing likelihood of return to work and easing the transitioni.
- Talk with the employee post-injury. Ask how recovery is going. Address any questions or concerns. Don’t pressure them to return to workiii. Ask how the organization can support themi.
- The injured worker needs to heal mentally, even if the injury is physical. Encourage the claimant to ask for advice about psychological treatment and mind-body therapies such as yogav.
- Show appreciation for employees helping out in the absence of the injured worker. Provide compensation for extra work when appropriateiii.
Preparing for the employee’s return to work
- Avoid an adversarial approach. Work with coworkers, unions, and doctors. Perception impacts claim durationi.
- Communication is important. Get everyone working together towards a common goal[vi]. Understand your role in the process. Be open about what parts you controlv.
- Be flexible. Though the goal is to return the employee to their original role, alternate duties or reduced hours are often necessary during recoveryi.
- Encourage the worker to participate in developing their return to work plan. Injured workers don’t have to be 100% recovered to return to work. Participating in the workplace improves recovery timesiii.
Establishing modified duties
- Be open to a graduated return to work plan with identified goals initially[vii].
- Be open to modified duties and creative solutions when it comes to physical injuries and painvii. Provide a job description for the employee to use to create their modified duty with their doctor/counselor/adjuster[viii].
- Focus on what the worker can do rather than what they can’tiii. Injuries may require creative thinking to get the employee back to work. Keep in mind when a piece of equipment is required for an employee to return to work, it’s possible other employees could use the same equipment to prevent future injuriesvi.
The employee’s return to work
- Psychological issues may occur if an employee’s return isn’t handled appropriately. Make sure to check in with the employee and make accommodations as necessary. Communicate with other employees what is going on and why the employee has modified duties so no one cries “unfair”iv.
- Have a plan for the employee’s first day and first week back. Create a supportive, positive working environment for the employee. Review their progress at the end of the first day. Make sure they don’t push too hard too early. Stay alert for signs of the injury recurring or flaring upiii.
- Watch for signs that worker restrictions may be too restrictive or not restrictive enough. Signs of being too restrictive may include: boredom, frustration, and lack of productivity. Help them try out tasks to create the right restrictions at that momentviii.
- Communicate safety procedures clearly with returning employeesii.
Working with an employee who is on modified duties going forward
- Return to work duties are an ongoing discussion. Hold regular check-ins with everyone involved to make sure restrictions or duties are appropriate as the employee continues to re-integrate. See how the employee is coping and address their questions and concerns. As their condition improves, upgrade their duties accordinglyiii.
- If the employee is not making progress, try to identify contributing factors (unsuitable job, lack of co-worker support, fear of re-injury, blame, resentment, other psychosocial factors)iii.