Workers Need to Know the Truth About Workers’ Compensation (Part 2)

Thanks to for the photo.

In last week’s blog, I explained that the path to a better workers’ compensation system begins with getting past the political arguments. I am convinced that better informing workers about how the system should work will greatly improve both public policy discussions and the claims process.

Injured workers can be tempted to stay home from work as long as possible. I suspect they do not realize the long-term implications of unnecessarily being off work too long.

Before I make the case for return-to-work for injured workers, I want to state very clearly that I am in no way suggesting that injured employees work hurt. This is inhumane and can lead to possible re-injury, which can make a claim much more complicated than necessary. Injured workers need to know that returning to work as soon as medically feasible is in their best interest in the long term.

Studies have shown that the longer an employee is away from work, the less likely they are to return. One concluded that after 12 weeks, injured workers have only a 50 percent chance of returning to work and by one year, potential for gainful employment drops to less than 2 percent.

There is just something about work that gives people meaning. When I was an outreach worker to senior citizens in my teens, I saw retirees die unnecessarily early because they did not find meaningful activity after retirement. I remembered asking an African-American woman in her 90s who was born before 1900 how she lived so long despite all she had been through. She said she always made sure she had work to do.

Let your employer know you want to come back to work
as soon as it is OK with your doctor.

Absence costs workers in several ways. Consider the disruptions in family life and schedules and restrictions from pleasurable activities, such as hobbies or sports. Finding another job in the current economic market may also prove to be difficult.

Workers can be adversely affected psychologically when they are not working and do not feel like productive members of society. For 20 years my father loaded trucks for a living. When he sustained soft tissue back injuries and did not return to work, he didn’t feel like a man because he could not provide for his family. Prior to this he never missed a day of work, but ended up on social security disability. He died about 12 years after filing for workers’ compensation.

What can workers do?

1)   Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to take advantage of workers’ compensation and enjoy the time off from work. While it appears to be a break in the short-term, it really isn’t worth it.

2)   Let your employer know you want to come back to work as soon as it is OK with your doctor.

3)   Help your employer find ways you can work.

4)   Are you eligible for telework? If so, make it known that your willing to work remotely.

5)   Contact your company’s Employee Assistance Program to find out other ways you and your family can get support.

And if your employer does not help you return to work, focus on looking for work elsewhere. You want to work for people who care.

My hope is that this blog will inspire injured workers to take an active part in the process. I also hope it encourages employers and system professionals to help educate injured workers. What else should injured workers know? Please share in the comments section.

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4 thoughts on “Workers Need to Know the Truth About Workers’ Compensation (Part 2)

  1. Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson says:

    From my own work I know that is workers remain engaged or are encouraged to look past their workers compensation claim, they will find the process back to work so much easier than those who are not engaged or have information withheld from them.
    My work engages injured workers with the “post” workers compensations conversation, what I have found is that when injured workers have a future “possible” to aim at they become very focussed on getting to that point and find that the annoyances of workers compensation is more tolerable.

    For employers is they remain engaged with the injured worker they will find that the hurdles others experience simply are not there.

  2. Tim Rose says:

    I would also add that with increased time off, which appears to be a goal of or at least acceptable to many applicant attorneys, and the resulting increase in PD, is almost always offset by the loss of income in the present and future. As well as issues with finding employment, or the loss of an otherwise good job. Unfortunately, I do not believe this is discussed in great detail with many injured workers.

  3. Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson says:

    Tim at point of impact injured workers do not get a degree in workers compensation, they get an instant degree in pain and confusion.
    A great deal of my work is based in explaining the workers compensation, the system does not explain itself because it does not think it is important to do so. I attended a industry meeting here in Adelaide yesterday, one of the workers compensation people (when explaining how adding another claims agent would happen) said “we will give you the information as we think you need it”.
    Given that every person in the meeting works with injured workers and we rely on the ability to access information before we need it and every one of the people in the room were professional people (including the WorkCover Ombudsman) the level of anger was palpable.

    So if the professionals who are used to dealing with this level of frustration, can you imagine just what total fear injured workers go through because they have not been given clear information or all the information that they need to be able to make clear and informed decisions.

    Here in South Australia at 13 weeks post injury an injured worker has their pre-injury income reduced by 10%.
    Far too many injured workers do not have that basic information explained to them.
    Many of them believe that they will not face the reduction until their claim has been accepted, so if a claim takes 10 weeks, that they reduction will not start until another 13 weeks, however in truth the reduction of income will start at 13 weeks post injury.

    I could list many many other things that injured workers need to know, but because they do not have basic knowledge of the workers compensation they do not have the ability to ask the relevant questions without the relevant questions they can not get the information to make the informed decisions they need to make for themselves.

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