Help Employers Use Disability Coverage To Create A Return-To-Work Culture
Corporate America witnessed an interesting paradox after September 11. With employees worried about their personal safety and financial security, why didnt this national tragedy catapult group disability to the top of the benefits priority chart?
The answer lies in research we conducted with companies with 500 to 10,000 employees to determine how much time mid-sized employers have to think about disability plans. The answer: 2%. Health care is most on their minds, followed by retirement and a variety of other concerns like employee vacation time.
Since September 11, employers tell us their 2% “mind space” for disability is dwindling. As healthcare pressures escalate, costs are squeezing employer mind space into a virtual headlock.
Because disability is not top of mind, employers say they want a program they dont have to worry about, one that runs smoothly from implementation through communication with employees through reporting, paying and managing claims.
Benefits decision-makers concerns revolve around basic customer service that touches their employees directly, like claims management and fast turnaround on inquiries, because employers are the ones forced to field employee phone calls and get to the bottom of problems when employees have trouble with their disability plan.
Employers want a provider to be responsive, use simple processes, and focus on returning employees to work. In short, employers want a low maintenance, back-to-basics disability program, with the less time spent on it the better.
Disability is the ultimate “bread and butter” benefit, getting employees back to work so they can earn a living while companies restore their workforce productivity. Many companies dont have a handle on the costs of losing their workforce to disabling illnesses or injuries.
American businesses spend about $200 billion annually on time lost from work, with the direct cost of time-off and disability programs running anywhere from 12% to 18% of a typical companys payroll. For a company with $2 million in payroll, absenteeism can cost as much as $360,000 a year. Employers want to ensure theyre getting their moneys worth from their disability program, but many dont get the biggest bang for their buck because they have no corporate return-to-work culture.
Anyone who has tried to change corporate culture in a fast-paced, growth-oriented company knows this is like changing the tires on a moving bus. As cultures shift, there is also the danger of “culture drift,” with old habits seeping back into the organization. Still, there are concrete actions employers can take to transform the workplace into a culture that motivates and rewards employees to return to work: