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Proper Programs Improve Employees’ Disability Leave

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How an employer handles their employees’ health problems can hurt productivity.  

The Employee Disability Leave study by Standard Insurance Company found that despite the common occurrence of employee health problems, some employers don’t properly address the situation.

“With benefits packages being a core component of most employers’ recruitment and retention strategies, employers are trying to find more creative ways to manage costs and address the key needs of employees,” said Jung Ryu, national accounts practice leader at The Standard. “As employers look to do more to boost financial wellness efforts, they may be missing a key way to support employees with disabling health conditions. These employees are often financially stressed, and their condition can often worsen or take longer to recover if not addressed.”

The survey found that 97% of employees who were able to stay at work were connected with a workplace resource program and that 47% of employees with a chronic condition are not referred to any workplace resource program.

Health problems affect time out of office
The employees surveyed experienced a range of health conditions. Nearly half of employees surveyed (47%) had a chronic condition — including cancer, mental-health problems, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Among employees who required a disability leave, length of leave varied by condition:

  • 46 days ─ average length of leave for fractures
  • 64 days ─ average length of leave for chronic illnesses
  • 112 days ─ average length of leave for mental-health problems.

Who employees ask for help defines their disability experience
The survey found that employees are approaching both their HR manager and direct supervisor for assistance with a health problem. Overall, HR managers provided a better experience than direct supervisors, as 48% of employees felt they were treated differently by their direct supervisor because of their health condition versus only 39% who said the same of working with their HR manager. In addition:

  • 60% of employees who worked with their direct supervisor were afraid of losing their job when reaching out about their health condition.
  • Employees who worked with their HR manager were able to return to work 44% faster than those who worked with their direct supervisor.

Accommodations are key in enabling a faster return to work
When analyzing what led to increased productivity and a shorter leave duration, the survey found that accommodations were key.

  • 93% of employees said they could perform their job effectively after receiving support from their employer.

Employees who were provided accommodations returned to work on average more than 30 days sooner than employees who weren’t provided with support.


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