Workers’ Compensation: It’s always a potential threat for large losses. And when Workers’ Comp costs get out of control, it can become a challenge to reduce them.
Accept the challenge to reduce Workers’ Comp costs, or to hold down already low Workers’ Comp costs. How? Here are some strategies to help you and your business gain the upper hand in the drive to keep Workers’ Comp costs down:
- Know the people you hire. Do a thorough background check on the applicants you are considering hiring. Check the applicants’ work history with previous supervisors. Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you can’t make inquiries about an applicant’s medical history or Workers’ Comp claims. However, you can sometimes gain information in background checks that will help you decide whether the applicant has a good work ethic and is reliable and trustworthy.
- Test your applicants. ADA doesn’t permit employers to investigate applicants’ Workers’ Comp history or medical conditions. But you can give applicants psychological-type tests, honesty tests and reliability tests that can give you insight into the individual’s behavior style (is the person more likely than most others to be accident prone?) and level of honesty and reliability.
- Know more about the new employee. Once you’ve made a job offer to an applicant, you can inquire about any health conditions that will affect the person’s ability to perform the job. Also, once you’ve made a job offer you can make inquiries about any possible Workers’ Comp claim history the individual might have.
Note: Background checks may not turn up information about a person’s previous Workers’ Comp history. Many states will not give out that information. Important: The ADA doesn’t allow an employer to deny employment to an individual simply because that person has previously filed an unemployment claim or because the person has medical problems.
However, once you’ve made a job offer to an applicant it is important to learn whether or not the individual has any medical conditions which might affect the person’s ability to perform the job, and whether or not your company can make reasonable accommodation for the medical condition. For example, the last thing you want to do is put a new employee with a history of a back injury in a job which requires lifting products or parts weighing 75 pounds for eight hours a day, if the person is restricted by a doctor to lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time.
- Get involved. The employer’s involvement in claims is vital. This means good communication between management and the organization’s insurance carrier. When a Workers’ Comp incident occurs, no matter how minor, get involved in making sure the claim is processed quickly and that your insurance carrier handles the claim without unreasonable delays. If hearings take place, make sure you or your representative is present.
- Get to the facts. One distinct cause of elevated premiums is abuse of the system. If your employee claims an injury on the job, you must ferret out the truth. To get to the truth is often difficult and sometimes nearly impossible. Don’t just leave the issues to your insurance carrier. It’s the employer’s responsibility to find out exactly what happened. This means investigating the cause or causes of every Workers’ Comp incident.
- Choose the doctor (if you legally can). If your state law allows, give yourself the benefit of choosing the doctor or doctors who care for the injured employee. Some states give the employee the right to select the doctor, so check your state law. If your state gives the employer the right to choose, use this right.
- Keep in touch. While an employee is away from work recuperating from an injury or illness… keep in touch with the employee. This conveys to the employee that the employer is concerned and cares about his or her progress. Long-term periods of recuperation frequently invite the threat of malingering. The longer the employee is away from the workplace, the more likely it is for him or her to extend the recovery time.
So an occasional drop-in visit from a supervisor or manager can be beneficial. It helps the employee feel “in touch” and it gives management an opportunity to observe the employee’s activity and progress.
- Bring the employee back. Whenever possible, find light-duty or alternative work for the employee who can’t perform their regular job because of a workers comp injury or illness. This is an important step to take to reduce the chances that an injured or ill employee will malinger and unnecessarily extend the length of the Workers’ Comp claim.
By encouraging an employee to come in to the workplace for light-duty or alternative work, even if it is for only a few hours a day or a few hours a week, the employee’s connection to the workplace and to the social interaction with co-workers continues. This can keep the employee from feeling abandoned and resentful, and can keep the employee from feeling the Workers’ Comp indemnity income is an acceptable alternative to earned wages.
- Make working safely a priority. This means more than simply having a formal safety program, with a safety manual and monthly safety meetings. This means incorporating safe working conditions and safe work procedures into your workplace culture. It means teaching and requiring employees “to do a job safely or not do it at all.”