Workers’ compensation program administrators and members of the claim management team are constantly seeking new methods to manage their safety program. This includes the use of safety programs, the implementation of medical management techniques and data analysis. All of these systems are great. However, the best way to control the cost of any claim is to stay in contact with injured employees and empathize with their predicament.
Containment Starts at the Date of Hire
Effective employee engagement starts when that person walks through the door on their first day of work. This includes providing the new employee with useful information they can use prior to a work-related injury.
- Detailed new hire information regarding safety and injury prevention;
- Policies and procedures on reporting an injury; and
- Information on post-injury care and return-to-work best practices.
Promoting Effective Communication on Work Comp Matters
Effective communication is important to everyone involved in the workers’ compensation process. This process starts before the injury takes place and steps into high gear immediately following the injury.
Once an injury takes place, it is important for the employer and representatives from the claim management team to focus on the injury. It is especially important to understand that the injured person has needs—this goes beyond receiving medical care and treatment with compassion. In cases of a severe injury, it is also important to make sure family members who are entitled to information receive it in a timely manner.
Severe injuries also include additional involvement from the employer and a representative with experience in handling complex matters. Additional attention must also include a focus on accommodating the employee and returning them to work as soon as possible.
Lack of Communication Leads to Problems
There are three main reasons why parties who suffer workers’ compensation claims retain legal counsel. These are CONFLICT, FEAR and GREED.
- CONFLICT: The workers’ compensation process is adversarial. Small disputes can escalate quickly and be the result of interactions with the employer or a member of the claim management team. The leading cause of conflict occurs when information about the process is not openly provided to the employee. Communication that is frequent and complete can minimize conflict and reduce the possibly of unnecessary problems.
- FEAR: When an employee suffers a work-related injury, they receive wage loss benefits. These benefits are in essence a reduction in their wages. Unfortunately, the employee does not experience a reduction in their cost of living. They are also faced with the unknown as it comes to future employment, income/earning capacity and ability to provide for their family.
- GREED: Greed in workers’ compensation is not a one-way street. In some instances, the rise of a work injury can lead to one party trying to take advantage of the other. Even if this is not a reality, it can be the mistaken perception.
Benefits of Communication
Effective and continuous communication by the employer can reduce these reasons why injured workers retain legal counsel. It can also reassure an employee and make them feel they are a valued member of the team. Ongoing communications with the injured employee should continue for as long as the employee is off work, even with severe injuries where the employee is off for an extended period. By continuing regular contact with the injured employee, the employee is reassured that the employer does want him/her to return to work.
Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is 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 of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: email@example.com.
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