Many employers don’t communicate with their employees about workers’ compensation benefits fearing additional claims. An informal online poll showed that 88 percent of employers and others involved in the claim process wrongly thought that communicating with employees caused them to file a workers’ comp claim.
Most injured employees don’t get an attorney because they want to get more than they deserve. Most employees call lawyers because of an inadequate level of communication between the employer and the employee. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say that injured employees call them because they cannot get answers about their benefits from their employers. When there is an adequate exchange of information between the employer and the employee, the employee might not see the need to hire an attorney.
Employers should create a workplace that fosters and expects on-going communication. The level and quality of communications will often make a difference in the final outcome of the workers’ comp claim.
Here are some ways that you can proactively communicate with your employees:
Having a clear and simple brochure about workers’ comp is an easy way to communicate with employees from their first day of work. A “What to Do in Case of An Accident” brochure should be posted throughout the work site and sent to every employee annually. Some areas that a brochure should cover are:
• What type of injuries are covered
• What type of benefits are available such as medical expenses, lost wages, medication and mileage
• How benefits are received
• Transitional Duty Programs
• Fraud control
• Who to call with questions
Keep employees informed of their responsibilities through safety trainings. Supervisors should reinforce these requirements through regular meetings and during safety plan trainings at the start of every new project. This injury prevention and post-injury response training is crucial to ensuring the best possible outcomes for the employee and the employer when an injury occurs.
Employer’s Communication Most Important
The key to good communication is the employer having a designated communication contact. This responsible employee serves as the primary contact point who takes charge of immediate contacts and keeps the communication loop flowing. Having one key, easy to reach contact person makes it much easier for an injured employee to keep in touch. Employers should not make injured employees make numerous calls to different departments or people to repeat the same information. The contact person should be patient and kind while an injured employee who may be in pain or shock describes unfamiliar medical procedures, medications and treatment.
All your employees, managers and supervisors must know the name and phone number of this key contact person. Make sure the key contact’s name and contact information is posted prominently in the brochure, policy manuals, workers’ compensation communications and employee bulletin boards.
Informal communication includes telephone conversations and face-to-face conversations. Informal communications also include any voice mail or get well cards sent to the employee. These forms of communication should also be patient and kind so that the injured employee feels a level of caring and concern about their wellbeing.
The employer should remain in contact with the employee throughout the recovery process. The best way to do this is via a weekly scheduled phone call or having the employee call in after each medical visit. Some employers have on-site weekly meetings, if the injured worker is able, so that the employee continues to feel connected to the workplace and can sign any necessary paperwork. The information discussed in these contacts allows the employer to more easily respond to the injured employee’s concerns.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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