How Disability Management Fast-tracks Employee Health & Return to Work
By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday March 15, 2022Updated : Wednesday April 19, 2023
Having a disability management program shows you value the health and safety of your employees. Employees are the most integral part of any company. They keep your business running and provide the fuel for ideas and innovations. So, when they hurt themselves or get sick, there is no doubt that getting them back to work is a top priority.
What is Disability Management?
Disability management refers to a series of efforts aimed at preventing or improving the negative health outcomes of employees on disability leave. An effective disability management program will also facilitate the employee’s timely recovery and return to work.
Disability management is a long process that begins when an employee goes on disability leave, and may continue long after their return to work.
A disability management program could include:
- Proactive and preventative measures to keep employees from going on disability in the first place, such as mental health programs or health standards and safety legislation;
- Efforts to accommodate employees returning to work from disability, including accessibility standards or assistive technologies;
- Short- or Long-Term Disability Insurance coverage, which offers additional protection and coverage beyond what might be available through the province.
Having a good disability management solution in place is more important than ever with the rising disability rates in Canada.
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The Importance of Early Intervention in Disability Management
Early intervention in disability management has been shown to be crucial to an employee’s recovery and likelihood in returning to work. Only 20% of employees who go on disability leave return to work if the leave lasts 6 months or longer. This drops to 2% after 11 months.
Source: Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed – WorkSafe BC
Effective disability management will have the employer working alongside the employee, medical professionals, and the Insurer to facilitate a return to work as quickly as possible, while still ensuring that the employee gets better.
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Accommodation and Modified Return to Work Plans
Accommodations and a modified return to work plan may be required in order to achieve a timely return to work. These accommodations will vary depending on the nature of the disability, but could include modifications such as:
- Flexible work schedule, reduced hours or days worked
- More frequent breaks or rests from work
- Light Duty Tasks
- Time off for medical appointments
- Job restructuring, retraining, or assignments to alternative tasks
To do this, a physician may request a list of tasks associated with the employee’s job. The physician can then advise the employer and the employee on the extent to which the employee can perform these tasks, and recommend accommodations if required.
Workplace Accommodation for Disability in Canada
These, combined with reduced hours and constant monitoring allow the employee to come back to work, even if in a limited capacity. The goal is to eventually have the employee be able perform their regular full-time duties again.
Preventative Disability Management
A good disability management program will also take preventative measures to mitigate the risk of injuries and illness. This approach provides workplace safety guidelines and training. It also considers employee stress and workload. By providing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), as well as ongoing safety training and guidance, employers can help prevent injuries and illnesses from happening in the first place.
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Why Disability Management is a Crucial Part of Disability
1. Help Employees Return to the Workforce
Employees who go off on disability leave face a number of challenges. Losing some or all of their income combined with not being a “contributing” member of society can take its toll. In fact, the longer a person is away on disability, the less likely they will ever return to the workforce at all.
However, a disability management program can actually reduce the length of an injured employee’s absence by an average of 3.6 weeks. For persons with a permanent disability, this number goes up to 12.6 weeks.
Having the employee come back under a modified return-to-work plan can greatly improve their chances of returning to their pre-disability functions. It also helps them preserve their self-esteem and confidence, and the employee maintains their income and independence.
2. Show Your Commitment to Your Employees
Employees notice what you do and don’t do for them. So, when you treat an employee who is on disability with the respect and care they deserve and need, it shows your loyalty to them. This can go a long way for employee morale, both for those who are on medical leave, and for those who are at work still.
We all know employees who feel well-treated are more productive and engaged, which never hurts your bottom line.
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3. Help with Employee Turnover
It’s no secret that Employee turnover costs time and money. Having a disability management program that helps employees return to work faster means you don’t have to spend time replacing and training employees. On top of that, your other employees may end up taking on more work until a competent replacement is found. Causing stress and burdening a stretched workforce may lead to other employees requiring mental leave.
4. Manage Claims Better
Employers can help avoid delays in claims processing by being involved right from the start. There are employer statements to complete to submit the initial to the insurer. Communicating any developments in the employee’s RTW plan will make sure the claimant receives payments on time and in the correct amount.
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Claims are also resolved quicker when employers take a proactive approach to disability management. When claims are resolved quicker, it helps with plan sustainability, which is good for all parties involved.
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5. Reduce Accidents
Continual safety protocols and measures, as well as employee awareness campaigns can help ensure your entire crew is working safer. This can reduce the number of injuries or illnesses, thus reducing the cost associated with absenteeism or the loss of an employee. Employee workplace injuries also directly affect Workers Compensation premiums, so minimizing them is good for your bottom-line as well as employee spirit.
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There are many benefits to having a disability management program, and no downsides. Keeping costs low and employee morale high is a fundamental business strategy that aligns perfectly with the purpose of these programs.