DMEC 2018

5 Reasons Employers Say DMEC Is a Must-Attend Event

Employers look to the DMEC conference to share real-world problems and solutions with their peers in the trenches.
By: | August 8, 2018

The Disability Management Employer Coalition, or DMEC, annual conference draws faithful followers who return year after year while also attracting a steady stream of new participants.

DMEC’s annual conference has grown from 110 attendees in 1996, when it first launched, to the nearly 800 who gathered August 6 through 9 in Austin, Texas. A few employers in attendance know exactly why this conference is a must-see every year.

1) DMEC Offers Learning Opportunities

Employer compliance requirements keep growing increasingly challenging as state and local governments pile on more and more family and medical leave type laws.

Add in the Americans with Disabilities Act and employers need a place to learn about the most recent legislation, court decisions and regulations they’re required to stay on top of.

“It is really, really confusing and really difficult for employers to manage all of that,” said Kimberly N. Mashburn, national accounts practice lead, group benefits at The Hartford.

“One of the hallmarks of DMEC is making sure we keep employers up-to-date on changing legislation for leave management, Family and Medical Leave Act and now all of the municipal leaves, the state leaves and all of the paid family leaves coming into play,” added Mashburn, who is also a DMEC board member.

2) Great Place to Share Ideas That Work

Compliance isn’t employers’ only concern with so many leave and disability regulations. Maintaining a productive workforce is challenging when the laws allow employees so much time away from work.

Which brings us to a second reason for DMEC’s popularity. The conference provides an employer forum for sharing ideas on what strategies work for managing all those leaves and the disabilities that cause absences.

“I am the only one who does what I do where I work,” said Jenny Haykin, integrated leaves & accommodation program manager at Puget Sound Energy in Washington state.

“So having the opportunity to connect with other people in different organizations trying to accomplish the same things I am trying to accomplish, and hearing about what they have done and what works and what doesn’t work — that is all fantastic,” Haykin said.

3) Topics Are Relevant for an Employer’s Day-to-Day

DMEC chairwoman

Marcia Carruthers, co-founder and board chairwoman, DMEC

A third reason DMEC’s annual conference appeals to disability management professionals: the attendees and speakers keep it real, addressing tangible topics that commonly concern employers.

“What I really like about DMEC is this is where you meet all the worker bees, the people who really make it happen,” said Gary Anderberg, senior VP, claim analytics at Gallagher Bassett. “They have disability dirt under their fingernails. They know what they are doing. These are the people I like to listen to. These are people who are talking about real things happening to real people.”

This year’s conference topics included the complexities of reasonable accommodation, predicting and reducing disability absence, and the changing workforce and benefit design.

“We have far less talk about theory and far more talk about what worked and what didn’t, the results, and ‘this is how we did it,’ ” Anderberg explained.

4) DMEC Has a Willingness to Lead on Topics Generating Employee Disabilities 

A stigma around mental health prevents many employers from talking about the topic, even though it’s a costly employee disability driver. DMEC has long been at the forefront of educating employers on helping employees cope with mental health issues that cause absences and productivity distractions.

Mental health challenges are a huge cost driver for employers, so DMEC continually educates on the topic, said Marcia Carruthers, DMEC co-founder and board chairwoman.

“We keep pushing it and keep pushing it out and pushing it out,” she said.

This year’s conference, for example, included a session titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: The Invisible Disability Now Visible.”

One in four employees experience a mental health issue during any given year, presenter Rachael A. Shaw, president of Shaw HR Consulting Inc., told DMEC. Employees suffering from depression, she added, miss 27 days per year due to absenteeism or presenteeism, meaning they are not focused on the job when they are at work.

5) Networking

Last, but certainly not least, attendees include a good mix of employers and service providers and the space for problem-solving discussions. &

Roberto Ceniceros is a retired senior editor of Risk & Insurance® and the former chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. Read more of his columns and features.

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