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Seven Steps to Reducing Costs of Workers' Compensation Using Your Employee Assistance Program

Some of you asked me to explain further how an EAP can make a larger contribution to reducing Workers' Compensation costs for employers.

The timing is good because i
t appears many employers will have their Workers’ Compensation premiums raised in 2012.

Major carriers are pushing to raise rates. A quick Google search shows that is the case.

Based on health psychology, personal experience, what works, (and what should work), here are seven steps to using the employee assistance program to help reduce risk of loss associated with Workers’ Compensation:

Each of these steps could be developed further, but you will get the idea:

Step 1: Set up a meeting between human resources, the EAP, Finance, risk managers, and the property casualty insurance agent (if you are not self-insured.) The group topic: "Helping Injured Employees: Integration of the EAP Role".

Step 2: Discuss risk, exposure, costs, types and number of injuries, and the risk exposure for certain jobs. Also discuss the potential role of the EAP and any obvious or possible linkages to behavioral risk factors, attendance, or conduct issues known to be associated with injuries and their context. Discuss recovery times and treatment compliance. Overall, what is the data telling you? Any trends or opportunities visible? Develop an integration plan.

Step 3: Encourage employees to phone or contact the EAP when they are injured. The rationale is confidential discussion about injury issues, relationship and communication issues (conflict avoidance) with coworkers and the supervisor, frustrations and conflicts at home with family members, trouble-shooting issues that may protract absence from work including domestic issues at home that interfere with treatment and recovery. (Note:

The secondary payoff for this contact is the likely to be less abuse of WC benefits, returning to work sooner, and fewer angry injured employees.)

b. The EAP should use a follow up schedule to “check in” and offer “support” to injured employee-clients after their self-referral to the program. The rule: Contact and follow up equals anticipated return to work and support from the employer, which leads to earlier return to work.

Here is an excellent quote:

"With a commitment to over communication, good listening skills, and a call me if you have problems attitude, the organization can take direct control of its claims outcomes. Several organizations using this approach have seen huge cost savings, as well as their workers’ compensation litigated case rate being significantly reduced."
- Public Entity Risk Institute

Translation: With injured employees, "super size" them with communication and support.

Step 4: Train supervisors to reinforce the “use the EAP when injured" message. Have supervisors provide injured employees with EAP contact information. Ask the EAP to create a pamphlet with a positive, upbeat rationale for using the EAP if injured on the job.

Encourage supervisors to avoid conflicts with employees via telephone or by email with injured workers. (Supervisor and coworker conflicts figure prominently in increased injury recovery times and protracted absenteeism of injured workers.)

Step 5: Create a zero tolerance policy for harassing employees on light duty. If a medical doctor has approved light duty and the employee returns to work, do not allow coworkers who don’t believe the injury is real or "that bad" to influence or intimidate the recovering worker into participating in unapproved work activities.

Step 6: Educate workers who are not injured to cooperate with Step 5. Try an EAP Poster or some mechanism to get the message across not to guilt-trip light duty employees. (
HR materials resource: EAP poster kit )

Step 7: Measure financial impact, job satisfaction, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, medical costs to determine EAP contribution to positive outcomes.

Bonus Step: Get the insurance provider or workers’ compensation managed care firm to assist with analysis and push the carrier to reduce your rates next year showcasing your improved back to work recovery program.

Bonus Step 2: Get press coverage and take a bow. You may become famous. :)
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