Column: Workers' Comp

Advocacy at the Forefront

By: | November 2, 2016

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.

Kudos to employers who are building injured-worker advocacy programs.

They recognize that employees thrust into complex workers’ comp systems too often experience fear, uncertainty and frustration — emotions that deter optimal claims resolutions.

It’s refreshing to hear success stories about employer advocacy efforts, particularly because the workers’ comp blogosphere has been clogged with stories lamenting the dysfunction of the workers’ comp system.

But by devoting resources to advocacy, employers are taking their best shot at providing workers with a better claims experience, rather than just fretting about the system’s problems and failures.

The good news is that employers adopting advocacy are applying real creativity and deriving better outcomes from their efforts.

The fact is that advocacy, a.k.a. getting injured workers the appropriate attention they deserve, should have been work comp’s prime directive all along. Escalating complexity has obscured that over time.

The good news is that employers adopting advocacy are applying real creativity and deriving better outcomes from their efforts.

Target, a 2016 Teddy Award winner, for example, experienced lower litigation rates and decreased claims costs when it built an advocacy program.

Target, which already had a strong workers’ comp program, enhanced its offerings with additional advocacy efforts that helped solidify a caring culture as a hallmark of the program.

At this year’s National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo, a panel of employer speakers will explain how their advocacy efforts help keep injured workers’ welfare a top priority.

There are good reasons why employers are reporting success from advocacy efforts that include making sure claimants understand how the system works and what resources are available to them.

Consider that a 2014 Workers’ Compensation Research Institute study found trust in the workplace an important predictor of claims outcomes. To reach its conclusion, WCRI evaluated workplace trust by asking claimants whether they feared being fired post-injury.

Fear of being fired led to a four-week increase in disability durations, WCRI found.

And fear is just one among several emotions that can push injured workers to lose faith in their medical care, grow frustrated with their claims adjusters and seek attorney representation.

But helping injured workers understand that their employers are engaged in their care and will provide any hand-holding needed to navigate workers’ comp systems is bound to improve outcomes.

Hats off to those employers who understand this and are putting great effort into helping alleviate their workers’ concerns. &

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