Never underestimate the supervisor’s role in supporting injured employees in the workers’ compensation process. An employer’s communications department can produce the most positive propaganda possible, but the supervisors’ attitudes are what ultimately count to injured employees.
Workers who feel cared about by their managers are less likely to litigate their claims and more likely to enjoy positive return-to-work experiences. Expressing concern includes being who are well informed with the necessary knowledge to respond appropriately when workers are injured at the job.
Too often, however, supervisors are unaware of their roles and responsibilities. Even worse, necessary support from top management could be lacking.
Nobody wins. The results can be disastrous for injured workers who feel confused or abandoned in the seemingly black hole of workers’ comp. Meanwhile, employers suffer from unnecessary direct workers’ compensation costs and lost productivity.
Workers who feel cared about by their managers are less likely to litigate their claims
and more likely to enjoy positive return-to-work experiences.
To provide some suggestions, I am making some supervisory role assumptions that will differ according to how an employer manages its workers’ comp program.
Make sure supervisory responsibilities are clear and attainable. Promise and deliver practical support and training from top management.
When a worker is injured, the first immediate concerns are ensuring the best possible medical response and treatment, and that the comp claim is filed as soon as possible. Within 24 hours of learning of the workplace incident or the claim, whichever comes first, the supervisor should contact the injured worker within 24 hours.
Supervisors should send get-well cards, perhaps including notes from their co-workers. Some employers show they care by sending flowers or a fruit basket to the worker’s home or hospital room. These are great ideas, but are no substitute for knowing they are missed.
Supervisors need to support their workers. Listening and responding to needs and concerns of injured employees encourage efficient claim processes and return-to-work. Workers need to know that the company is committed to providing the best medical care, with assurance that accommodations will be made for a transitional job when injured workers are medically ready to return to work.
This conversation could start with a phone call. With permission from injured workers, supervisors should consider visiting injured workers in the hospital and/or home visits with, perhaps, the gift basket in tow. Ideally, the company will have a brochure covering what workers need to know, such as what to do when after filing a claim, important contact information, and answers to often-asked questions.
Supervisors can remind injured workers’ families of the company’s Employee Assistance Program. Remember, workers’ comp provides first dollar coverage, so they are not to be paying medical bills related to the workers’ compensation claim. (This applies in all states except Washington, I believe.)
Some employers provide workers a list of quality workers’ compensation lawyers, stressing the hope that that workers will be give them opportunities to resolve issues before taking legal action. Injured employees may not realize that attorneys are compensated directly from their benefits. Allowable percentages of payments to lawyers vary by state, and the worker should know those limits.
In next week’s blog, I will cover supervisors’ role in helping injured employees return to the job. Please feel free to comment at will!