A recent study has found that injured workers are often left feeling frustrated and fending for themselves after they file a workers’ compensation claim.
The survey of injured workers by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada found that workers reacted in a number of ways when experiencing “procedural” unfairness, frustration in how their claim is being handled, or poor communications from their claims adjuster or employer. Some give up, some react confrontationally, others quit.
The study confirms what other studies have shown: Employers need to be actively involved in helping workers navigate the workers’ comp system, keep in touch with them to lend assistance and provide support, including a feasible return-to-work program.
Otherwise, they risk having a disgruntled injured worker who may take longer to recover or secure the services of a lawyer. And once lawyers enter the picture, the more likely it is that their injury will drag out and the cost of the claim will increase substantially.
The claims process can be confusing and unfair to injured workers. The amount of money they receive when they are not working and on the mend is less than their paycheck, and poor communications often leave them languishing and wondering when they can return to work.
Many claimants have a number of negative emotions when embroiled in the workers’ comp claims process, including feeling:
- Disappointed, and
Others did report some positive emotions, including determination and optimism.
Issues that caused negative feelings include:
- Uncertainty about how to access workers’ compensation programs.
- Reluctance to speak up about their claim for fear of losing their jobs.
- Not receiving adequate modified work so they can return to work early.
- Receiving inadequate medical care.
- Their employer trying to suppress the claim.
- Unresponsive claims adjusters.
What you can do
Throughout the recovery process, communication is the key. Maintaining contact with your employee and keeping in touch with the attending physician about available work will help reduce anxiety about returning to work.
For many workers that may mean modified work with restriction to avoid reinjury. You may also consider having them work from home, if feasible.
Encourage an injured employee to follow through with recommended care to avoid long-term complications whenever possible.
If your worker is not getting a response from their claims adjuster, offer to assist them.
Check in with your worker regularly and let them know their colleagues miss them and are hoping they’ll soon be back on the job.