Employees Choose HR Over Their Supervisors for Sharing Health Conditions

Oct. 11, 2017 — Employees who only work with a direct supervisor to address their health conditions are more worried about being treated differently and losing their jobs than employees who work with an HR manager.

A survey from Standard Insurance Company found that how an employer's approach to disability management can help prevent employees from being labeled by their condition and increase overall productivity.

"Employers set the tone for the employee experience — especially when it comes to disability management," said Tom Foran, vice president of underwriting and product development at The Standard. "The Standard found that 93% of employees who received accommodations for their health conditions said they could perform their jobs more effectively after receiving assistance from their employer. Creating a collaborative approach to disability management within an organization can help save time and money, as accommodations can help boost an employee's overall health and productivity."

The survey found that employees with health conditions are nervous about bringing attention to their illnesses or injuries in the workplace for fear of being treated differently. 53% of employees surveyed were scared to bring up their health condition with their direct supervisor, while 49% felt they were treated differently by their supervisor because of their health condition.

For employees who worked directly with their HR manager, those numbers were significantly lower. 29% said they were scared to bring up their condition with their HR manager, while 32% said they felt they were treated differently by their HR manager because of their condition.

The report also found that employees who worked with their HR manager received more consistent communications, workplace accommodations and connections to other support programs that helped them return to work sooner. Employees who worked with their HR manager had a lower disability leave duration (59 days) than those who worked with their direct supervisor (77 days). This often is because HR is aware of additional resources that can help employees in their return to work, including support from their disability carrier, or wellness, disease management or employee assistance program.

Other key insights:

  • Employees feel more positive about their employer overall when they're helped by an HR manager:
    • 73% said their HR manager knew how to support them.
    • 73% felt more productive after receiving accommodations.
    • 67% felt more valued by their employer because they were provided with accommodations.
  • Workplace accommodations can have a big impact on employees, the most helpful of which can be fairly straightforward:
    • 61% were given flexibility to attend doctor's appointments.
    • 58% were allowed to work a modified schedule.
    • 40% received workspace modifications.

"The support an employee receives in the workplace can be the fuel needed to help them stay at work and avoid a disability leave, or get back to work quickly after taking time away from work," Foran said. "Employers can work with their disability carrier to create a workplace culture that fosters inclusion and provides support for employees before, during and after a health event. The sense of teamwork among HR managers and direct supervisors can help employees do their jobs more effectively."

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