5 Workers’ Comp Communication Strategies to Ramp Up Your Program

5 Workers’ Comp Communication Strategies to Ramp Up Your ProgramDo you ever feel like the message just isn’t getting through to employees about your workers’ compensation program? They don’t understand what to do if they are injured, don’t seem to trust you or the company to do right by them, and have unrealistic expectations?

 

You’re not alone. Those are some of the biggest challenges employers cite in implementing their injury management programs. Thankfully, several low-cost, easy-to-implement strategies can ensure your workers understand the system and are on the same page with you.

 

 

Why Communication is Important

 

In addition to the frustrations that you feel when communication with injured workers is not smooth, it also costs you money. Research studies show a direct link between poor communication and workers’ compensation claims outcomes.

 

For example, Liberty Mutual found a decided difference in outcomes when supervisors responded positively rather than negatively to a worker reporting an injury. Positive responses, along with an injury triage system to report injuries were associated with an average of 40 percent lower claim costs and 58 percent shorter disability durations.

 

Supervisors’ responses that were deemed as ‘negative’ and drove poor outcomes included:

 

  • Lack of support
  • Blaming the worker
  • Expressing anger
  • Questioning the validity of the injury
  • Encouraging the worker not to file a claim

 

Positive outcomes were reported when the supervisors were flexible and open to talk with the worker, responded quickly, and expressed genuine interest in the worker’s overall well-being. Setting realistic expectations was cited as one of the most important best practices to communicate well with the injured worker.

 

Return-to-work coordinators said they were most effective in their jobs when they practiced:

 

  • Active listening
  • Communication
  • Ability to relate well to other stakeholders
  • Problem-solving
  • Having confidentiality

 

These so-called soft skills were more strongly associated with positive outcomes than having technical knowledge of the workers’ compensation system. The first step to change supervisors’ negative responses to positive ones is to show them the financial impact each has. Beyond that, there are several ways organizations can demonstrate genuine caring for their injured workers.

 

 

Effective Communication Strategies

 

Injured workers need to have at least a general understanding of how the workers’ compensation process works. This can be accomplished through

 

  1. Employee brochure. This proactively sets employees’ expectations in the event they are injured. It should communicate briefly how the program works, including the transitional duty program and RTW. It should clearly state that the company will take care of them and help them return to work. It should be written in a positive tone.

 

  1. Wallet card. Once an employee does become injured, he most likely will have forgotten the details in the employee brochure. A simple wallet card or posted notice should be readily available and should explain the post-injury steps:

 

  • How to report the claim
  • How and where medical care will be provided
  • The RTW process
  • Expectations for weekly meetings with you and/or others

 

Injured workers are often frightened and confused. The actions undertaken immediately following the injury set the tone for the entire process. Several tactics put the claim on the path for a positive outcome.

 

  1. First-day phone call. If a friend has been in an accident or is suddenly injured, you would probably contact him to let him know you are thinking about him, find out how he is doing and see if there is anything you can do to help. Injured workers are no different. A supervisor, or manager who has a positive relationship with the worker should call the worker as soon as possible, preferably the first day. The conversation does not need to be more than a few minutes, but it should include messages such as

 

  • We are sorry this happened
  • We want you back at work as soon as you are able
  • How are you doing?
  • Do you need me to contact your family, bring you anything you may have left at work?
  • Are there any questions about the workers’ compensation process I can answer for you?

 

The person making the call should make sure the worker knows what to expect — whether a claims adjuster and/or case manager will be in contact, how medical care will be provided for him, and that his job will be waiting for him when he returns.

 

  1. Get-well card. In addition to the initial contact from the supervisor or manager, coworkers should also convey their well wishes to the injured worker. The easiest way to do this is by sending a simple get well card, signed by the worker’s colleagues. Their messages can be simple expressions of support.

 

  1. Weekly Meetings. Communication with the injured worker should not stop after the initial contact. There should be ongoing, regular meetings via phone or in person if possible. these conversations serve two purposes:

 

  1. They let the injured worker know you are there to help.
  2. They help you gauge how well the worker is recovering.

 

These conversations should continue to express well wishes and focus on the worker’s progress. The supervisor or manager can ask:

 

  • How the worker is doing
  • How his medical care is going — whether he likes his providers and if they are responsive to his needs
  • What activities he is or is not able to do
  • What questions or frustrations he may have

 

 

Conclusion

 

The workers’ compensation system has many moving parts and complications. By communicating well with injured workers, you can eliminate many of the frustrations and realize better outcomes and lower costs.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

6 Opportunities to Improve Your Return to Work Program

7 Opportunities to Improve Your Return to Work ProgramLost time from work is a significant driver in workers’ compensation claims.  Consider some of the following statistics:

 

  • On any given workday, up to 5% of the total US workforce is off work;

 

  • Lost wages and productivity account for $267 billion per year – with roughly $88 billion of that amount attributed to work injuries; and

 

  • Time off from work due to injury accounts for additional stressors on employees, employers and the claims management team. This includes increased workplace dissatisfaction, loss of workplace morale, increased overtime (including mandatory overtime costs) and a reduction in the quality of work one performs.

 

The bottom line is nobody wins when an employee is off work due to an injury.  Based on these factors, interested stakeholder seeking to improve their workers’ compensation programs and improve efficiency should seek to return injured workers to work – and do so as soon as possible.

 

 

Opportunities to Return Employees to Work

 

Quick and effective return to work benefits all interested stakeholders.  There are countless ways to return an employee to work following an injury.  It takes time and energy, but it has many benefits to the program’s bottom line.  This requires a plan that needs to be in writing and strictly followed to drive program efficiency.

 

  • Prepare a written RTW policy: This policy should encourage all employees regardless of their age, tenure with the employer or position to return to work following a work injury.  It should require contact between all interested stakeholders.  One key consideration is the number of weeks an employee can perform light duty work with the date of injury employer.  Doing so tends to motivate employee’s to return to return quickly to work.

 

  • Prepare a written job description: When it comes to job descriptions, the devil is the details.  Important information should conform to the state’s workers’ compensation act and what is considered “suitable gainful” employment.  Items that need to be defined include both the essential and marginal functions the employee will perform.  The wages and hours and employee will work are also important;

 

  • Identify a RTW Coordinator: A RTW Coordinator serves an important role in the RTW process.  Not only are they are responsible for serving as a point of contact for the employer, but they will also understand the myriad of complex legal issues associated with workers’ compensation.  This includes such matters as short-term disability, ADA, and FMLA;

 

  • Identify and catalog light duty jobs available: There are countless activities an injured worker can perform in a light duty capacity that meets a wide variety of work restrictions.  Clerical positions that are generally sedentary include answering telephones, filing documents and checking safety supplies.  Other positions one can consider for employees with medium duty restrictions include light maintenance, cleaning common areas, updating safety materials (policies and procedures and First Aid kits) and grounds maintenance.

 

  • RTW form development: Workers’ compensation is a form driven system which can be used to one’s advantage in the RTW setting.  Forms can include job offers, acceptance of duty letters and other communications.  Well drafted forms help communicate policies, procedures and expectations to everyone.

 

  • Communication with the workforce: It is important that all employees are aware of and understand a well-written and consistently implemented policy.  Steps to make sure this occurs includes incorporating the RTW aspects of the workplace into new employee orientation, easily accessible workers’ compensation forms, and ongoing education during quarterly/annual workplace safety training and meetings.  Mentioning it at all trainings reinforces the importance of RTW as a workplace policy and can boost workplace morale.

 

Conclusions

 

Lost time following a work injury reduces the profitability of an employer and increases the cost of a workers’ compensation program.  Taking affirmative steps to put injured people back to work through an RTW program, increase a program’s efficiency, and make a company for efficient.  Part of this includes creating an effective RTW policy and making sure it is implemented within a workplace environment.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Overcome 3 Common Return to Work Barriers

5 Ways to Break Down Organizational Silos to Reduce Workers’ Comp CostsMembers of the claims management team and other interested stakeholders in a workers’ compensation program need to be proactive when it comes returning an injured employee back to work.  This includes being ethical and hardworking when it comes to vocational rehabilitation matters.  This is especially the case when it comes to overcoming common barriers in the RTW and rehabilitation process.  Failure to do so can result in increased workers’ compensation costs and other added expenses.

 

 

Who is Responsible

 

The employer is the most important and impactful party in return to work.  The best practice is for the employer to develop the position of a “RTW Coordinator.”  This should be a person who is knowledgeable in human resource matters, state and federal disability and discrimination laws, and accessible to the entire workforce.  The RTW Coordinator should also be responsible for all interactions with the injured worker on behalf of the employer and maintain documentation related to a workers’ compensation claim.

 

  • Responsibilities of the Employer: This party is responsible for reporting the work injury and helping with the investigation.  The employer should take action in letting the employee know their rights, which is often required under a state workers’ compensation law.  They are also responsible for identifying available light-duty work opportunities and monitor the employee’s recovery.

 

  • Responsibilities of the Insurer: Coordinate with the employer on all work injury matters and pay for all workers’ compensation benefits the injured employee is entitled to under the law.  The insurer can also make recommendations on light duty job opportunities and provide education to their insured.

 

 

 

Overcoming Common RTW Barriers

 

There are numerous barriers to effective RTW following a work injury.  Employers, insurers and other interested stakeholders should make an effort to understand these barriers and overcome common objections to returning an employee back to work following a workers’ compensation injury.

 

 

  • We do not have light duty available – Sorry!

 

There are countless opportunities for an employer of any size to provide RTW opportunities for injured employees in need of light duty work.  The key is being creative!  Examples can include clerical positions in the front office and maintenance positions such as cleaning or performing lawn maintenance.  A light duty position can also include the review of policies and procedures and making sure the company’s safety training is up to date.

 

In order for a light duty job offer to be effective, it must meet certain requirements outlined in law or rule.  Factors to consider include specific details contained within the job offer description and consistency of the offer when compared to the employee’s normal position – e.g., If the employee was working the first shirt at the time of injury, make sure the job offer is for that same shift.

 

 

  • The labor unions are tough – they will never agree to this!

 

Organized labor should always be viewed as a partner in RTW efforts.  Restrictions may apply depending on the collective bargaining agreement.  Every effort should be made to include labor in this process as the union benefits when its members are working and being productive.

 

 

  • The injured worker is too old to attempt RTW

 

Americans are staying in the workforce longer due to a number of different factors.  Regardless of the age of an employee, it is important to remember they add value not only to the mission of the company, but it also increases workplace morale.  Every attempt should be made to include older employees in the process.  It may even be an opportunity to keep them off Social Security Disability via the “Ticket to Work” program.

 

 

Conclusions

 

All interested stakeholders are responsible for RTW efforts in workers’ compensation matters.  This includes being creative and seeking to overcome common obstacles that prevent the implementation of an efficient program.  By keeping all parties involved in the process, one can reduce workers’ compensation program costs and promote a better workplace.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Know Two Types of Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE)

Know Two Types of Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE)When a physician is treating an employee for a back injury or other job related injury, the decision on when to return the injured employee to work is often a subjective decision. The physician who is unsure of the employees physical capability will often turn to the physical therapist for an objective opinion of the employees ability for work. The physical therapist will provide a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) by administering various tests to determine the employee’s functional capacities and limitations.

 

 

Comprehensive Examination and Evaluation

 

The FCE is a comprehensive examination and evaluation by the physical therapist that objectively measures the employees level of functioning. The testing will document the employees ability, or the lack of ability, to perform the essential job related task over a specific time frame. The FCE will provide objective information to the physician in several areas:

 

  1. the employee’s functional abilities and job demands
  2. the disability evaluation
  3. when to return the employee to work
  4. whether or not the employee can return to the job held prior to the injury
  5. the employee’s functional abilities away from the job
  6. to information to design a rehabilitation plan, if needed
  7. the need for other medical intervention and/or treatment

 

While most workers compensation adjusters and employers will look at a FCE as a way of proving the employee is able to return to work, it serves a much greater function.   The results of the FCE will often limit the disability rating of the employee, preventing the physician from assigning a higher disability rating than is justified. Furthermore, the FCE will determine physical limitations the employer will need to know to modify the employee’s job, preventing a needless re-injury of the same body part.

 

 

Job Specific & General Purpose FCE

 

There are two types of FCE, the Job Specific FCE, and the General Purpose FCE. The Job Specific FCE measures the employee’s ability to perform the task and physical demands of a specific job. It can be performed at the physical therapist’s clinic, but the physical therapists can go with the employee to the actual job site and evaluate the employee’s ability to do the essential task of the employee’s job. The job-specific FCE will determine if the employee can safely do his prior job or if modifications of the required work are needed.

 

The General Purpose FCE is normally used when there is no longer a job for the employee to return to or when the job functions have not been determined. The General Purpose FCE consists of a group of standardized test and measurements that can be used to establish the employee’s overall physical capabilities. The results of the General Purpose FCE can be used to evaluate the employee’s ability to perform specific jobs that may come available to the employee.

 

 

Determine Medical Status of Employee 

 

Prior to starting the FCE, the physical therapist will review the medical records of the employee to determine the medical status of the employee. The physical therapist will establish a baseline for the employee based on the known job demands. The job demands of the employee will be characterized per the US Department of Labor’s “Selected Characteristics of Occupations as Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles” as:

 

  1. sedentary – exerting up to 10 pounds of force occasionally,
  2. light – exerting up to 20 pounds of force occasionally or up to 10 pounds of force frequently
  3. medium – exerting 20 to 50 pounds of force occasionally or 10 to 25 pound of force frequently
  4. heavy – exerting 50 to 100 pounds of force occasionally or 25 to 50 pounds of force frequently
  5. very heavy – exerting in excess of 100 pounds of force occasionally or in excess of 50 pounds of force frequently or in excess of 20 pounds of force constantly

 

Both the Job Specific FCE and the General Purpose FCE measure the employee’s ability to perform various motions, movements, and skills. The ability to do the accomplish the physical demands of the job will be measured in these areas:

 

  1. Balancing           Carrying                  Climbing                 Crawling
  2. Crouching          Far vision                Feeling                   Finger dexterity
  3. Fingering           Handling                 Hearing                   Kneeling
  4. Lifting                Manual dexterity   Motor coordination Near vision
  5. Pulling               Pushing                  Reaching                Sitting
  6. Standing            Stooping                 Talking                    Walking

 

Again, using the US Department of Labor guidelines, the employee’s tolerance level during an eight hour work day for the above activities is categorized as:

 

  1. Not Present (Never) – The activity does not exist in the job (example: Crawling could be classified as Not Present in the job)
  2. Occasionally – The activity exists less than 1/3 of the time (example: Climbing – occasionally)
  3. Frequently – The activity exists from 1/3 to 2/3 of the time (example: Carrying – frequently)
  4. Constantly – The activity exists 2/3 or more of the time (example: Walking – constantly)

 

Document Evaluation Results 

 

When performing the FCE, the physical therapist is responsible for ensuring the test are appropriate for the employee and the test can be done safely. The physical therapist will review the musculoskeletal condition of the employee as reported by the treating physician.   The physical therapist will screen the employee for any underlying medical pathology that would limit or prohibit the employee from participating in the FCE.

 

Upon completion of the FCE, the physical therapist will document the evaluation results. The FCE report will confirm the employee can return to work without job modifications or will confirm the employee can return to work with specific job modifications, or the need to delay the employee’s return to work.   The FCE may also address the need for work hardening or other interventions that would improve the employee’s physical abilities. Properly utilized, a FCE can provide the treating physician with the necessary information to return the employee back to work.

 

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.

Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

 

School System Summer Break – 4 Proactive Work Comp Tips

School System Summer Break - 4 Proactive Work Comp Tips

Interested stakeholders in the workers’ compensation process are constantly seeking ways to reduce program costs.

 

One area includes the discontinuance of workers’ compensation benefits for school employees and teachers suffering from the effects of a work injury during the summer break period.  While statues and case law interpretations vary in each jurisdiction, employers and insurers are generally limited in their ability to discontinue or suspend various workers’ compensation benefits for school employees during this time of year – even if they have no plans of looking for work while under restrictions on their activity.

 

 

Schools Out – Time to Discontinue Work Comp Benefits?

 

While the school year typically runs from late August through late May, employees of school districts around the country sustain work-related injuries every day.  The ongoing effects of those work injuries do not magically disappear for summer break.  Sadly, those hot summer days a teacher, paraprofessional or administrative staff employee would like to spend at a beach, can be spent at home convalescing.  Proactive members of the claims management team might view this as an opportunity to discontinue ongoing wage loss and vocational rehabilitation benefits.  Unfortunately, this is often not consistent with many state workers’ compensation laws via case law interpretation.

 

One case on point comes from Minnesota, where a school district sought to discontinue ongoing wage loss benefits at the conclusion of a school year.[1]  The rationale for the discontinuance was based on the premise the employee did not intend to work during the summer months, and the result was no loss in wages.  A compensation judge rejected this argument and affirmed by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals.

 

In affirming the reinstatement of wage loss benefits, the court noted that “A teacher who has no summer school duties is presumably free to pursue other part-time or short-term employment.  Therefore, a teacher with a work injury might be entitled to continuing wage loss benefits through the summer if the teacher is totally unable to work for medical reasons attributable to the injury or has injury-related restrictions that affect is his or her ability to secure other employment.”

 

In sum, wage loss benefits are typically payable as long as the employee has a disability related to the work injury. The basis for this decision is also applicable to other forms of workers’ compensation benefits, including vocational rehabilitation.

 

 

Staying Proactive to Avoid the Summertime Claims Blues

 

Being away from work can cause the summertime blues in anyone – especially people who work in an educational environment.  Now is the time for claims professionals handling claims related to school employees to be proactive on these matters to reduce their exposure and ensure improper discontinuance of benefits is not made.

 

  • Investigate whether the school employee is engaged in seasonal employment. People who work in a school environment may be likely to work seasonal jobs during the summer months.  This can include individuals suffering from work-related  Efforts to investigate these matters may also include the use of surveillance if there is credible information the employee is working and not reporting their work activities.

 

  • Make efforts to return the injured school employee to work. Proactive return to work efforts should be made on every claim.  This is especially the case for school employees where wage loss benefits could be paid for an extended period of time.  Suggestions include developing a “Work on Loan” relationship a local non-profit, volunteer agency, or other light duty work inside school district buildings and facilities.

 

  • Monitor the status of claims involving school employees and stay in contact. Lack of communication between the employer/insurer and employee leads to conflict, fear and  Staying in contact with the injured worker provides for effective communication and minimizes problems.

 

  • Determine if the school employee is cooperating in vocational rehabilitation efforts. Summer break and time off from school does not give an injured school employee a vacation from their recovery and achieving their vocational rehabilitation goals.  Various workers’ compensation benefits can still be discontinued or suspended for failure to cooperate with a rehabilitation plan.

 

 

Conclusions

 

School employment and summer breaks create an opportunity for interested stakeholders to stay engaged with employees and reduce workers’ compensation program costs.  While most benefits typically remain payable during summer breaks, there are opportunities for motivated members of the claims management team to engage injured employees and minimize their exposure.  This includes claim monitoring, engagement and ongoing efforts to return an employee back to work.

 

[1] Qualy v. Special School District No. 1, 1994 WL 421773 (MN WCCA).

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

3 Questions to Eliminate Return to Work Disincentives

You have implemented a corporate return-to-work program, but your projected workers’ compensation savings haven’t yet materialized. Supervisors are telling you they can’t get employees back to work, and even if they could they don’t WANT them to return to work. We’ve all heard it.

It may be time to examine the impact of collateral resources, often resulting in employees out on workers compensation receiving more income and benefits than they would have if they were working.

 

 

Common Disincentives to Returning to Work:

 

  1. Salary and Wage Continuation: Some companies pay 100% of salary in lieu of having an employee collect workers compensation for injuries of short duration.

 

  1. Occupational Injury Pay Supplements: Many firms pay supplemental benefits to make up the difference between workers compensation benefits and regular earnings.

 

  1. Open-Ended Job Return: Instead of holding jobs open indefinitely, employers should hold jobs open for a specific time period, such as six or nine months.

 

  1. Vacation and Sick Time: Companies frequently allow vacation and sick time to accrue for employees on workers compensation. Some even allow employees to “borrow” more sick time if they need to stay out of work longer.

 

  1. Short-Term Disability: In some companies, disabled employees receive STD benefits in lieu of salary after six weeks. But the standard definition for disability may differ from workers comp, allowing an employee to collect both.

 

  1. Perk Continuation: Employers often maintain ancillary benefits and privileges such as car allowances, club and professional dues, company store privileges and periodical subscriptions for employees on disability.

 

  1. Loan Protection Policies: Individual insurance policies are available to pay mortgages and consumer loans such as car loans and credit card debts in the case of a disability.

 

  1. Unemployment Compensation: In a few states, an employee receiving workers comp also can qualify for state unemployment benefits.

 

  1. Pension and Retirement Plans: If these plans do not allow for the offset of workers comp benefits, an employee can receive workers compensation benefits and a full pension.

 

  1. Product Liability Actions: An employee can file an action against the manufacturer of a product that injured him to collect damages. The employer should seek reimbursement for workers comp payment from any such settlement.

 

 

3 Questions to Eliminate Return to Work Disincentives:

 

  1. What Benefits are Injured Workers Getting By Not Working?

 

Many companies fail to look closely enough at their internal wage and benefits structure before embarking on programs to reduce workers compensation costs. There are numerous collateral income benefits and sources providing built-in disincentives to remaining injury-free or returning to work as soon as possible.

 

For example, a major newspaper was considering an expensive incentive program to motivate employees to return to work, but a careful examination of the company’s situation revealed the reason employees were not returning to work was because they earned the equivalent of 115% of their pre-injury earnings when the stayed out of work.

 

In another case, an injured construction company employee received long-term disability (LTD) payments after 26 weeks of disability, in addition to workers compensation benefits. The total of these benefits exceeded his pre-injury earnings.

 

And, his childcare and commuting expenses also were greatly reduced while he was home.

 

 

  1. Examine Extra Insurance Your Employee May Have

 

If an employee has purchased credit disability insurance, he or she may have eliminated house and car payments while being unable to work.

 

As such, he refused his employer’s offer of a transitional duty job at full salary because his LTD and credit disability policies would have terminated the benefits.

 

 

  1. Get your Departments to Work Together to Design WC Policies.

 

In a large company, the directors of human resources, industrial relations, workers comp and employee benefits and compensation must all be involved in designing, administering and maintaining policies. Incentives to remain at and return to work must be built into the management systems. Disincentives must be removed from all direct and indirect sources.

 

Substantial savings can be achieved when a company coordinates its salary, benefits and compensation programs, so employees don’t earn more by staying out of work. If not properly coordinated, a company’s employee benefit and compensation programs may inadvertently serve to extend workers compensation absences.

 

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.

Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

 

Unions Really Can Be A Workers’ Comp Asset

When most people think of labor unions and workers compensation, they think of the role of unions in supporting questionable workers compensation claims. When a factory closes and then most of the union work force files belated worker’s compensation claims, at the encouragement of the local labor union, the union gets a black eye and a soiled reputation.

 

 

It does not have to be this way. Unions can have a positive role. When unions support safety improvements, they are providing an important benefit to their members and they are assisting the employer in lowering the cost of workers compensation. Union support for OSHA programs can be instrumental in improving the safety within an industry. Unions have also promoted the use of safety gear including hard hats and protective eyewear.

 

 

 

Unions Can Implement Highly Effective Return to Work Program

 

 

While unions have often promoted safety in the work place, unfortunately some public sector unions have fought against return to work of employees, resulting in unnecessary workers compensation expense for the employers. However, some unions in the private sector have worked with employers to develop and implement highly effective return to work programs.

 

 

In the states where the employers do not have to hold open a job for an injured employee, unions can make a difference. Often the union will have a labor agreement requiring the employer to hold open the injured employee’s job until the employee can return to work. In addition, the union can track workplace accidents and make recommendations on ways to reduce the number of accidents.

 

 

The union representative or steward will normally guide the injured employee through the work comp process, starting with arranging immediate medical care for an employee hurt on the job. This is a good thing as the sooner the employee is treated for an on-the-job injury, the higher the probability of a faster recovery. However, the union involvement can quickly go from good to bad when the union encourages an employee to stay off work longer than necessary because the union has a quarrel with management.

 

 

 

Perceived Union Benefit Drives Poor Workers’ Comp Outcomes

 

When unions boast that the union members receive more in workers compensation payments than non-union employees do, they may think that sounds like a good thing, but in reality, it is stating they create more waste in the workers compensation system. Every state requires the exact same benefits for medical, indemnity and vocational rehabilitation for non-union members as they do for union members.

 

 

Contrary to what some union leaders tell their members, employers do not have unlimited funds for workers compensation. Unions often err when it comes to workers compensation by putting the “rights” of one injured worker ahead of the best interest of all employees and the employer. When a union files a grievance on behalf of an injured worker who is overstating his/her injury or an injured worker who is trying to commit workers compensation fraud, any benefits paid to the injured worker reduces the amount of money the employer will have to provide benefits to legitimately injured workers

 

 

The same logic applies when the union representative or union steward automatically requires (“request”) all injured employees to go an attorney chosen by the union to represent the employee in their work comp claims. The additional expense that the attorney creates in the claim comes out of the employer’s pocket whether the employer is self-insured, or pays it latter through higher insurance premiums. The additional cost of the represented workers compensation claim reduces the amount of money the employer has for work comp and other employee benefits.

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

5 Ways To Facilitate Better Return-to-Work Rates

5 Ways To Facilitate Better Return-to-Work RatesThe longer an injured worker is off the job, the more it costs the company and the less likely he is to return — ever. Since that can add up to major expenses for an organization, the goal should be to keep injured employees on the job or, if that’s not possible, get them back to work as soon as possible.

 

Most injured workers are back on the job within 4 days. But there are times when that is not the case — even if the injury itself is not that severe. There are myriad reasons employees don’t return to the job. Using a few simple strategies can aid the process.

 

  1. Stay in network. The medical providers that are part of your network should be well versed in occupational health issues, especially when it comes to returning the injured worker to work. Physicians in the know understand that it is not only in the employer’s best interests, but the employee’s as well. Research clearly shows people recover and heal faster when they are participating in constructive activities, rather than sitting on the couch. Physicians who are part of the employer’s medical network understand these factors and are more likely to pursue returning the worker to the job site, at least in some capacity.

 

However, it does not always work out that way, and the employee may go to a physician of his choice for various reasons. Even in states without employer-directed healthcare, the employer can at least recommend certain providers. Someone from the company should also be designated to drive the person to the physician’s office. Doing so will make the worker more likely to agree to be seen by the provider recommended.

 

Some injured workers say they are ‘fine’ at the time of injury but later seek medical care. All injured workers should be provided with a list of in-network or recommended providers. If the employee later decides to head to a physician, he may be more likely to go to one suggested to him.

 

Employers need to be clear about the workers’ compensation process and demonstrate their caring and concern for the injured worker. This can be done with effective communication — both formal and informal (see ‘communicate’ and ‘brochures’ below).

 

  1. Job Descriptions. Whether the injured worker is treated by an in-network provider or one of his own choosing, it’s vital that the physician has a clear understanding of what the person’s job entails. Providers need to be fully aware of a worker’s job duties in order to determine whether he can or should return to work. While most injured workers want to return as soon as possible, there are some who would rather ‘take some time off’ or believe they need to stay off work to recover. A thorough, detailed job description will help the physician see whether the work is as onerous as the employee has described.

 

  1. Communicate. This is, perhaps, the most effective strategy an employer can use to facilitate return-to-work. Injured workers are typically confused about the workers’ compensation process and feel alone. A simple phone call the day of or one day following the injury is a vital step. The call should be initiated by the worker’s supervisor or a manager the employee knows well and trusts. The call does not need to be long and complicated, but it needs to include the following messages:

 

  • We are sorry you were hurt. How are you doing?
  • You are a valued employee of the organization, and we want you back to work as soon as you are able.
  • Here is what you can expect and what you need to do.

 

Injured workers want to know how and when they will receive medical care and whether and how they will be paid. These issues should be addressed in the first call.

 

Beyond the initial phone call, there should be weekly conversations along with ‘get well’ cards and contact from those close to the worker.

 

  1. Peer-to-peer Providers. Despite your best efforts to reassure the worker and steer him to an in-network provider, the employee may visit a physician who is determined to keep the worker off the job for as long as desired. Or, the treating physician may recommend treatment that seems in contrast with evidence-based guidelines.

 

The best thing to do in those situations is have another provider get in touch with the treating physician, preferably one in the same specialty. A provider who is independent but associated with the employer can review the worker’s medical records and discuss the treatment with the treating doctor. That may require explaining the benefits of returning the injured employee to work, or highlighting best practices of treatment for the particular injury. Physicians are more likely to pay attention when conversing with another physician.

 

  1. Brochures. Most people have no concept of how the workers’ compensation system works, including injured workers. This complicated process needs to be explained and understood to get the injured worker engaged in his recovery. An employee brochure is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

 

Upon hiring, all employees should be given a brochure that lays out in simple steps what to expect. It should explain:

  • How medical treatment is provided.
  • How bills are paid.
  • The return-to-work process, including transitional duty.
  • That the employer wants to return the injured worker and will not punish him for getting injured.
  • That there will be a post-accident investigation to determine if there is ann acceptable workers’ compensation claim.

 

The same information or a shorter version of it should be provided to any worker upon injury. Most workers either will not have read the brochure initially or won’t be able to find it once they are injured. Giving it to employees when they start employment at the company shows them there is a process and expectations; giving it to them when they are injured ensures they will have a step-by-step guide for the process.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The transition from injury to RTW can and should be smooth and seamless. This can be accomplished by clearly laying out the process and expectations and showing ongoing concern for the worker.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Pick Up The Phone To Dramatically Reduce Your Workers’ Compensation Costs

Pick Up The Phone To Dramatically Reduce Your Workers’ Compensation CostsOne of the biggest reasons injured workers hire attorneys is because no one has contacted them since the injury. They are in pain, not sure what to do or expect, and no one from the company has bothered to see how they are doing or even say ‘hello.’ They feel ignored and alone.

 

Attorney involvement is a huge cost driver, often more than doubling the cost of a claim. It makes sense to do everything possible to eliminate this reason a worker would contact an attorney — especially when it is as simple as making a phone call.

 

 

Why It’s Important

 

A worker who has been injured is suddenly thrust completely outside his comfort zone. His employer can easily allay his fears and concerns by contacting him. Calling the injured worker as soon as possible after the injury sets the tone for the claim.

 

 

Who Should Call

 

The most effective way to set a positive tone for the claim is by having a trusted colleague connect with the injured worker. In most cases, it is the supervisor. That person typically knows the injured worker well and is also in the best position to provide information about the company’s disability management process.

 

In some cases the supervisor may not be the best person to contact the injured worker; he may be unavailable or may have a frictional relationship with the employee. In those cases, someone else should be designated to communicate with the worker. It could be another manager who has a positive relationship with the employee or even a coworker who clearly understands the workers’ compensation process.

 

 

What to Say

 

A big reason some supervisors don’t contact injured workers is because they are not sure what to say. The conversation can be simple and friendly. With some basic, short training, the first-day phone call can be the most important aspect of handling the claim.

 

It’s important to understand the most immediate concerns of an injured worker are:

 

  • How and when he will get paid
  • How he will receive medical treatment
  • Whether and how he will be able to work

 

The conversation should address those issues, and answer any additional questions the worker has. The tone of the discussion should be friendly and easy, expressing concern and understanding. It is also imperative that the caller convey the message that the company wants the employee back at work.

 

Here are examples of things to say to the injured worker:

 

 

Show caring and concern:

 

  1. How are you? How is it going?
  2. How are you feeling?
  3. How was your first medical appointment?
  4. Did you like the doctor?
  5. Are/were you able to get the prescriptions you need?

 

 

Express support and understanding:

 

  1. We are really sorry you got injured.
  2. Is there anything we can do to help?
  3. Would you like me to contact your family?
  4. Do you need me to pick up any of your clothes, your materials, anything from the office?
  5. We want you back at work.

 

In addition to asking questions, the caller should actively listen to what the injured worker is saying. That means letting him speak without interrupting him, even if he is angry and upset. What is important is that he is heard and that the caller expresses his understanding of the situation — even if the caller does not agree with what the worker is saying.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Workers’ compensation claims close quicker when the injured worker heals faster and gets back to work sooner. Engaging the worker in his recovery will expedite the process. Injured workers who feel their employer cares about their well-being and maintains a connection are more engaged than those who feel alienated.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

4 Foundational Elements of Return to Work Success

 

Register for Live Stream WC Mastery Training:

 

When worker’s compensation was created over 100 years ago as the first form of social insurance in America, the number one reason and goal of the program was to return employees to their pre-injury state. Number one reason and number one goal of worker’s compensation was to return employees to their pre-injury state, both medically and from an occupation standpoint, their ability to work.

 

Hello, my name is Michael Stack, CEO of Amaxx. And if that is the truth, which it is, the number one goal of worker’s compensation is to return employees to their pre-injury state, the best way to do that is with a very effective return to work program. Now there’s a lot we could talk about with return to work. There’s a lot of different nuances, but what I want to discuss today is where I see companies falling down the most. And that’s right out of the gates in the policy, in the transitional duty policy, and the strategy and the philosophy as to how an organization even looks at setting up a return to work in the first place. Because if you’re not doing this right out of the gates, then you’re setting yourself up for failure, or at least you’re setting yourself up to not be as successful and have things run as smoothly as they could.

 

 

4 Foundational Elements of Return to Work Success

 

We’re going to cover four critical elements to return to work or transitional duty policy that you need to have implemented at your organization to set things up properly. Let’s talk about what these are.

 

Temporary

First thing is it needs to be temporary. Return to work needs to be temporary, and this should be no more than 90 days. The vast majority of healing should be occurred in most injuries … of course, you need to be flexible on this in order to accommodate for the ADA … but as you’re communicating this, as you’re setting this up, the vast majority of cases, temporary transitional duties should last no more than 90 days. And if you’re not on that path, then you need to bring up some other claim interventions to get things going in the right direction. So number one is temporary.

 

 

Similar to Employee’s Current Position and Flexible

 

Number two is it needs to be similar to their current position. As you’re looking at creating a transitional duty job, the first place to look is that it’s similar to their current job. Look at the functional abilities that you get from their provider, from the medical provider, and match that up to what they do. Make sure that they can continue to be productive as an employee. The first place to look is that modifying and making it similar to their original job. But you also need to be flexible in this same breath. Ask that employee what part of your job can you do today? Get those functional abilities from the medical provider, and maybe you can’t modify their original job, which happens. You also need to have the ability to possibly move them to a different division within your own organization or possibly at a different charity so they can get back to work right away, doing something that’s productive as for the society as a whole, helps their healing, as well. So temporary, similar and flexible.

 

 

Occurs During Regular Business Hours

 

Number three then is that it’s during regular business hours. Transitional duty occurs during regular business hours, and this is a typical workday. Regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 5:00 or 9:00 to 6:00, whatever your hours are at your organizations. So there’s no overtime that happens with a transitional duty job and no second shift, as well. So no overtime, no second shift. If someone’s on a transitional duty job, it’s happening during regular business hours. It lets you be able to monitor that individual employee, lets you be able to communicate with them better, and really puts them in and taps them into the ability to tap into medical providers, etc.

 

 

Condition of Employment

 

And the last thing here, element number four is that it’s a condition of employment. Return to work is a condition of employment. Now you think about this as if this person wasn’t injured, do you require them to come to work every day? What if they just said, “Well, I don’t feel like coming to work. I don’t feel like going in today. I’m not really feeling that great. I don’t feel like coming to work.” That’s unacceptable from an employment standpoint. Being paid as an employee, you have to come to work. The same thing is true in a transitional duty policy, as well.

 

Again, I’m Michael Stack, CEO of Amaxx, and if you can incorporate these four elements into your transitional duty policy, you will be well on your way to success in the most critical element to worker’s compensation management. Remember your work today in worker’s compensation can have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line. But it will have a dramatic impact on someone’s life. So be great.

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

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