Having an employee advocate is critical to any business, but what about a workers’ compensation-specific employee advocate? Unlike a typical employee advocate that reports to the benefits director and informs employees about their health insurance benefits, this advocate is available to an injured worker and can walk them through the workers’ compensation process.
“Throughout my career of managing workers’ compensation claims for different businesses, there has been a common thread that connects a successful workers’ compensation program—the employee advocate,” said Erin Grzesiowski, Senior Client Services Representative at Safety National. “They can shed light on what can be an overwhelming process for an employee, and become a resource and point of contact at an organization, so the individual does not feel alone throughout their recovery.”
Here are three areas that a workers’ compensation employee advocate can help improve throughout the process and how you can determine the needs of the role within your organization.
When an employee gets injured, they usually tell their supervisor about the injury to begin the process of reporting a workers’ compensation claim. However, what happens when that employee has a job where they work remotely or are considered a lone worker, like a truck driver? What if the supervisor is new and does not remember the steps for handling a workers’ compensation injury? Having a dedicated employee advocate can help navigate these situations. They can walk the injured worker through the reporting process and assist the supervisor. However, this does not replace the importance of communication between the supervisor and employee. An employee still needs to keep their supervisor informed of all developments concerning their work injury. The employee advocate can take things a step further to ease some of the burdens on the employee as they recover from their work-related injury.
Beyond the initial reporting, a key component of the employee advocate is follow-up. They check in on the injured worker to see how they are doing, track their days off and light-duty days, and ensure that their doctor’s office has all their workers’ compensation information. Depending on the size of your company, this person can also assist in obtaining the return to work release forms from the doctor’s office and communicating that information to supervisors. While this is typically the employee’s responsibility, having the advocate assist can go a long way in reducing your lost time days.
Having constant and open communication with your injured worker makes them feel valued and that the company cares about them. Often, when you have a dedicated employee advocate, the chance that an employee will seek out an attorney will be significantly reduced, thus reducing the overall costs of the claims.
Determining Organizational Needs
Depending on the volume of your company’s claims, you may not be able to justify having someone whose entire role is employee advocate for workers’ compensation. However, this role can sometimes be combined with other job responsibilities. The critical component is that the injured worker always has one contact they can rely on as a resource. If your company is too large for just one advocate, you could have several dedicated to specific regions.
Depending on your company structure, the position could be housed in one of several departments. Some companies have their primary workers’ compensation personnel in the HR department; others have a robust safety department that could include this position. Wherever your company decides this position fits, they need to have open lines of communication with the safety department leadership and HR. Open communication can lead to better post-incident analyses, absence management and injury management to provide updates about the employees’ status to the insurance carrier and the TPA.
Having a primary point of contact for your injured workers strengthens relationships and helps keep your workers’ compensation program running smoothly. If you don’t already have an employee advocate, it may be time to look at the structure of your program and see how you can add one.