A new report by a leading economics centre is encouraging employers to act quickly – and continuously – when it comes to employee injuries, rehabilitation and return to work initiatives.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research published its latest findings late last month, offering invaluable insight into the cost of lengthy employee absences and how to curtail them.
According researchers, injury and sickness absences of six months or more can cost a typical large business approximately $155,000 every year – but providing early support and staying engaged could reduce the length of these absences by 17 per cent.
Aside from the obvious elements of lost productivity and wage replacements, employers are actually hit with a whole host of additional costs which grow exponentially the longer an employee remains absent.
HRM talked to one industry expert who explained the extra benefits of stepping in early and staying involved throughout an entire employee injury.
“The longer an employee stays off work, the more barriers they create to return,” warns Ross Wace, former VP of HR for We Care Health Services and current COO of Isthmus Legal.
Wace says if an employee is off for any stretch of time, they’ll soon make changes to their routine – such as cancelling day-care – which could hinder their return.
Psychological barriers can also be a real problem, with many injured employees losing confidence in their abilities or becoming anxious about returning after a prolonged absence.
“The quicker you can get an injured individual back into the workplace, even if it’s not on their regular duties, the greater the chance is for a successful return,” he continued.
Preventing potential abuse
Wace also explained that employers who are slow off the mark may breed a culture of abuse.
“When you’re not managing a claim, employees realize that there’s potential for abuse there,” he warns. “If Joe’s been off for six months with a minor injury and he’s still getting paid, it looks like a good deal to a lot of employees.”
Instead, employers must liaise with medical professionals re-examine an employee’s injury as often as possible in an attempt to identify potential modified duties that the employee could take on.
Healthy employees, happy unions
Returning to work as soon as possible may be beneficial for the employer but it’s also in the employee’s best interest too, with studies suggesting a quick return to work can keep injured parties motivated, improve their sense of value and even help them recover quicker.
Wace, who has 25 years’ experience in labour relations, says this is a powerful tool when working in a unionized environment.
“When HR professionals are following the best practices out there in the medical community as to how to best rehabilitate an individual and get them back to their regular duties as quickly as possible, then there’s no way a union can argue with that,” he told HRM.