December 18, 2018
When an employee sustains a workplace injury, a compassionate response from an employer sets a more positive tone for an employee's recovery. Texas Mutual promotes this philosophy as essential to achieving the best claim outcomes and enhancing the employee's overall experience. In our recent article, we described the many benefits of incorporating empathy into your workplace culture and how negative attitudes can drive business costs and employee disengagement.
As an employer, a great first step is to download Texas Mutual's poster on workplace values. To help you approach injured workers with compassion, consider their most common fears and concerns:
- Are you going to fire me?
- Will I have a job?
- Who pays for this?
- I've heard insurance companies are tough and all about the money.
- Do I need a lawyer?
- They are probably watching or following me.
- How much money am I going to lose if I can't work?
- What if I can never work again?
- How will I be able to provide for my family?
- Because of my injury, I can't do the simple things I used to do.
- I'm in constant pain.
- This job is unsafe and I'm going to get re-injured when I go back.
- Will I have to pay for my medical bills?
- Will they replace me at work?
- How do I adjust to physical limitations?
- No one really cares about me.
While these are some of the most common injured worker fears, it's important for employers to engage employees to learn about their unique concerns. This open communication helps alleviate employee worries, misperceptions about being injured and what to expect during the workers' compensation process.
At Texas Mutual, experienced and compassionate adjusters work together with employers in providing support to an injured worker throughout each step of a claim. One-on-one communication between the employer and employee provides the maximum opportunity to build trust and put an employee at ease. The clear message employers need to convey is: "I'm sorry that this happened to you. You're a valuable member of the team and, together, we'll get through this."
As an employer, the way you react and treat an employee can alter the pace of recovery, which in turn, can impact business profitability and productivity. "Hazardous assumptions" are perceptions that are detrimental to an injured worker's recovery and the employer-employee relationship.
Hazardous assumption: The injury was intentional.
Reality check: you should investigate the accident, but more often than not, a workplace injury is an accident and may indicate a gap in safety procedures or training that may need to be addressed. Focus on your role in preventing a future accident rather than pointing fingers.
Hazardous assumption: This is a fraudulent claim.
Reality check: in 2017, less than 0.4 percent of workers' comp incidents reported to Texas Mutual were the result of fraud. Yet, if an employee has a second job or there is no evidence the injury occurred at the workplace, the incident needs to be investigated. Contact Texas Mutual so we can bring our expertise to the matter.
Hazardous assumption: They have recovered but haven't yet returned to work.
Reality check: did you discuss return-to-work options and expectations around the time the initial incident was reported? Remember that recovery can be very different for each employee. They may be following a doctor's orders to prevent further injury.
Hazardous assumption: They know about workers' compensation and how it works.
Reality check: Don't assume that an employee knows what to do when injured on the job. Most employees do not have prior personal experience with workers' comp.
At Texas Mutual, we understand that an injury in the workplace also leads to concerns and questions for you as the employer. As your workers' compensation provider, we encourage you to take advantage of the free resources in your texasmutual.com account to help facilitate a successful claim outcome. Our adjusters are also a resource to you and your injured worker through each step of claim.
Placing blame on an employee is not constructive or helpful in evaluating a workplace incident. It is an employer's responsibility to objectively investigate any work injury. Texas Mutual recommends evaluating incidents with an open mind, taking advantages of the safety resources available to you, and swiftly remediating workplace hazards.
It is critical that you identify the root cause of an incident. Thoroughly investigating workplace incidents complies with OSHA regulations, improves safety programs and reduces future injuries. To help you evaluate an incident, consider the following questions:
- Is there a hazard that can be removed?
- Was your employee properly trained? Is there additional training you can provide or an alternative form of training that could benefit your workers?
- Could your employees have better protective gear?
- Is there a better way to do the task at hand?
- Do your employees need an additional break?
View Texas Mutual's Aftermath of an Accident webinar for more insight into incident investigation. Texas Mutual policyholders have exclusive access to our dedicated safety consultants who can assist employers in conducting safety assessments in the workplace and recommend additional resources. Call us at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723).
Compassion in the workplace
Our first article in this series examined the benefits of empathy in workers' compensation and provided tools to set the tone for an employee-first approach. As we noted, our safety values poster is a great place to start.
In this article we've explored the injured worker's perspective, uncovered hazardous assumptions and offered resources for incident investigation. Read the next and final part of this series explores how you can use compassion to lead a return-to-work program that benefits you, your employees and your business.