This article is from our friends at the Institute of WorkComp Professionals:
Both in the media and in general conversation, we often hear people refer to the workers’ compensation laws in various states as being very “employee friendly” because they feel that it’s easy for injured employees to get more than they “deserve” from the workers’ comp system.
This may be true; as certainly there is little or no question that there are laws in some states that are more business friendly as opposed to employee friendly. But employers would do well to ignore this debate because in reality when employers put the right systems in place and implement a positive corporate culture, both employers and employees benefit.
As an agent, helping our clients communicate with employees before they suffer an injury is key.
You should encourage employers to have an employee meeting to discuss workers’ comp.
Here’s how the dialog between employer and employee should go:
“We buy workers’ compensation insurance as a benefit for you, our employees, to make sure that when you are injured while you are working for us that your medical and lost wage expenses are covered. Your medical expenses will be covered 100 percent. There are no co-pays or deductibles like there are when you are sick or have to go to the doctor for personal reasons.
“We cover all lost wages as well. However, the law requires a few things.
“First, the law in our state requires that during the first seven days (this number will vary from state-to-state) you are out of work, you do not receive pay. This might seem unfair but it’s the law and out of our control. If you are out more than a week, the insurance company will pay you 66.7 percent of what you are making now. (Each state has a maximum amount an employee can receive. If the work force might run into that, you might mention it as well.)
“I know that 66 percent seems low, and we agree. So that is why we want you to come back to work as soon as possible.”
OK, let’s break down what you just communicated to your employees:
We care about you. This has to be the baseline. If the employer doesn’t care about its employees, nothing else matters. Workers’ compensation results will suffer. If an employer treats its employees as interchangeable parts, it’s impossible to build a process that works. Workers’ compensation is an employee benefit. It’s required by law (in most states), but it is there to protect employees when they suffer an injury.
Educating the employees about the real benefits of workers’ compensation. The vast majority of employees who file for workers’ compensation have never filed a claim before, so it is highly unlikely they will understand how the system works. There are thousands of pages on the web about workers who worry about how a claim will affect them. How much will it cost? Can I be fired? So it is to the employer’s benefit to be truthful at all times.
Employees need to know their medical costs will be covered and that they are required to notify the appropriate people in the company should an injury occur.
It should be a condition of employment that all injuries are reported before the end of the day in which the injury occurs. Employees shouldn’t be given the opportunity to see if it “feels better tomorrow” instead of notifying the employer they have been injured.
Also let them know what lost income benefits they will receive if they are out on workers’ compensation. Every state has a waiting period during which workers will receive no pay. While it is generally allowable for an employee to use their paid time off in this window, it’s important for employees to know this time can be unpaid. Research shows that employees recover faster back at work and we want to build the expectation they will be released to work and are expected to return immediately after they see a doctor.
When you communicate with employees about how workers’ compensation works before they suffer an injury, many good things happen. When they know what to expect, which doctor they’ll see, and what their expectations will be returning to work, an employer is very likely to have positive results in their workers’ compensation program while also having happy, healthy and productive employees.
When you have a process in place that puts everyone on the same page, that’s when workers’ compensation will work for both the employer and the employees.