Advocacy has been a buzzword for several years in the workers’ compensation industry. Advocating for employees’ health and wellbeing isn’t just good business ethics, it can help your bottom line.

Panelists at the 2019 Workers’ Compensation Institute Conference, in Orlando, Florida discussed the initial change in philosophy toward advocacy, strategies deployed early on at their own companies, and offered suggestions for employee engagement that others can adopt and modify at “Advocacy and the Injured Worker Experience.”

“We’ve defined advocacy as a process grounded by the values of dignity, respect and transparency,” said Noreen Olson, Claims Manager with Starbucks. “[The advocacy process] coordinates activities to assist the injured partner, promote expectancy and engagement in recovery, and efficiently restores, and often improves health and wellbeing in order to resolve the experience with mutual satisfaction.”

Olson breaks it down to what she refers to as the 5 Rights of Healthcare – The right provider at the right time in the right specialty group, with the right medications and therapies to equal the right outcome.

Caring for an injured employee in the right way will go a long way in impacting your medical costs and litigation exposure. Tracey Gasper, Manager of Insurance Programs with Heartz said, “We are running a business, but however, I don’t think we should really look at the numbers in the financial aspects of a claim. We need to look at getting our injured workers back healthy again, and then the numbers will follow. The numbers will go down and litigation will go down and medical spend will go down if you take care of those employees because they know the employer cares.”

Steve Figliuolo, Senior Consultant of Risk Management with Chick-fil-A, related a workers’ compensation claim in which a young man was involved in a serious auto accident while traveling for Chick-fil-A. The company ensured the young man received his work comp benefits and located the proper doctors for his care. Figliuolo said the young man said he never retained a lawyer because he never felt he was being taken advantage of and he felt the company was doing everything in their power to aid and assist him while he was injured. That kind of advocacy, or empathy, can shift a person’s thinking about their injury from ‘I’m hurt and can’t do anything’ to ‘my company is going to get me well and back to my job and my life.’

Debra Livingston, CEO of ReEmployAbility, knows first-hand the power of caring and employee advocacy through her years of helping people return to work through light duty assignments.

“You need to learn about the employee and what they’re going through. How has the injury impacted their home life?” said Livingston. “All of those things, those type of social factors, are going weigh into their recovery process and how quickly they get back to work. I also think talking with them about their progress and eventual return to work makes an impact. You’re getting them back to work, but let’s continue that communication and transparency about the process of return to work, and check in with them regularly to make sure that they’re doing ok.”

Implementing a comprehensive return-to-work program that focuses on employee advocacy and empathy can help employers retain talented employees while lowering claim costs. ReEmployAbility is the largest national provider of specialty return-to-work and transitional employment programs. Their Transition2Work program offers employers a cost-effective solution to modified light duty assignments using their accredited, national network of nonprofit partners. This program helps injured workers in the transition back to work and connects them to a greater purpose so they can have a better life.

Debra Livingston will speak again at the 2020 Workers’ Compensation Institute Conference on the benefits of return-to-work for employee’s health and psychosocial care. Subscribe to ReEmployAbility’s newsletter today to receive information on ReEmployAbility, future conferences, and speaking engagements.

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