Disability Management FAQs
In addition to our complimentary file review service, our Director of Employer services is available via email or telephone to assist you in problem solving a difficult claim.
With absenteeism due to disability on the rise, employers are increasingly realizing that having employees off work for protracted periods of time affect customer service and the bottom line. Indeed the costs of having an employee off work are significant including overtime costs, replacement worker costs, training costs and of course insurance premiums. Bundle those costs with reduced productivity costs and you quickly realize how far reaching absenteeism is. A disability management program will assist you in reducing absenteeism, establishing partnerships with key stakeholders and reduce associated costs.
Once a disabled employee has been medically cleared to return to work you are legally required to offer work which accommodates his or her needs. Managing a return to work requires ongoing communication and cooperation with all stakeholders including case manager, attending physician, disabled employee, supervisor or manager, union representative if applicable and insurance representative. By communicating and cooperating with all these service providers a timely return to work will occur. While every stakeholder has an important role to play, it is the case manager who needs to take a leadership role in ensuring return to work issues are addressed. Briefly this includes a clear understanding of the employees physical abilities, a clear understanding of the job demands (i.e. lifting, standing requirements), job accommodation needs, (i.e. graduated return to work hours, work station modifications), health and safety issues affecting the disabled employee and co-workers and employee return to work obstacles. Once the above issues are address an individualized return to work plan with start and end date should be designed and implemented by the case manager. All stakeholders should agree to the plan.
According to Human Rights legislation, employers have a duty to accommodate disabled employees to the point of undue hardship. Based on recent Human Right Commission decisions, “undue hardship” occurs when the costs of a required accommodation could potentially result in bankruptcy. The onus of responsibility to prove that a recommended accommodation would result in bankruptcy rest with the employer. All stakeholders including the disabled employee, employer, attending physician and other stakeholders have an obligation to cooperate in the process.
The primary purpose of the IME is to obtain an independent medical opinion on the appropriateness of a treatment program. They are used extensively by disability insurance carriers to gauge the success of a treatment program currently in place. For example if a disabled employee has being treated by a psychiatrist for six months with medication and the disabled employee is not improving, an IME may be appropriate to determine what issues are impeding progress.
A FAE is a snap shot of a person’s physical abilities at one moment in time. They are helpful once it is determined that a person’s maximum medical recovery has been achieved. An FAE can be job specific or general. A job specific FAE will determine if the employee has the ability to perform the physical demands associated with a specific job. It will match the employee’s sitting, standing, walking, lifting, and bending etc. abilities to the requirements of the job.
A general FAE will simply identify the employee’s standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, and gripping etc. abilities without relating it to a specific job.
Gaining senior management buy-in is key to ensuring your wellness program has the necessary funding and support required to build and grow your program. Most executives want to see value gained for money spent. This can be accomplished by presenting before and after scenarios. For example if your organization is spending $100,000.00 a year on absenteeism costs (i.e. zero productivity when an employee calls in sick but full pay) most executives would get excited about introducing strategies that would reduce this cost.
Another angle worth considering is costs pertaining to disability claims. Disability claims either psychological or medical can result in significant insurance premiums including occupational claims (worker’s compensation) and non-occupational claims. (Short term and long term disability) This is another area your organization could be spending significant amounts of money on. Reducing these costs even marginally will easily pay for a basic wellness program. The cumulative savings year over year will be significant.
Finally since most executives are thinking about issues and trends that will impact the bottom line in the future, trend analysis in most cases will work in your favour. Since most organizations are experiencing an aging work force, the above mentioned costs are trending up. The older you are the higher the probability one or more employees will call in sick or become disabled. The average number of days an ill or disabled 45 year old is off work is much higher than an ill or disabled 25 year old.
The most comprehensive database of wellness articles, interviews, statistics and surveys can be found at the Wellness Council of America ( www.welcoa.org). Welcoa is a one stop source for wellness information whether you are creating a wellness program or looking for ways to improve your existing program.
In Canada, many municipalities are actively developing services and programs to help employers design and develop wellness programming. Visit your local municipality’s website for more detailed information about the services available to residents and businesses in your area.
As the wellness coordinator it is important for you to introduce programs that will popular to a large percentage of your employees. High participation usually results in favourable outcomes. Of course some programs will be more successful than others. A wellness steering committee will assist you in ensuring programs are both in demand and value added. Employee surveys can be helpful in determining what issues are important to employees.
Indeed the more entrenched the wellness program is throughout the organization the easier it will be to maintain momentum. Entrenching may include multi-level promotion (i.e. emails, flyers, staff meeting announcements, special events and newsletters). In addition it is important for management to not only endorse a culture of wellness but participate. Creativity is always good for creating a “buzz” about the program; the more employees talk about the program the momentum you will create.