Disability Study


Attention Human Resources Reporters / Business Editors

TORONTO, DEC. 6 /CNW/ - Improving disability management processes and returning employees to work earlier can save companies millions of dollars in disability management claims, according to a study by Sobeco Ernst & Young.

"Employees that are away from the work force for more than a year have great difficulty in returning to work, or simply do not wish to work. The longer you're disabled, the more entrenched it becomes. Employers need to throw out a lifeline and bring them back to shore", says Mike Guest, a Principal of the Benefits Practice at Morneau Sobeco Coopers & Lybrand (formerly Sobeco Ernst & Young).

Actuarial / Benefits / Compensation firm Sobeco Ernst & Young released a survey studying the disability management practices of 30 medium to large employers in both the public and private sectors that covers eight industry sectors and more than 250,000 employees. The industry sectors represented are manufacturing, financial services, education, retail, mining, petroleum, health care and municipalities.

The study shows that 62 percent of companies have formal return to work programs for all disabilities but only 28 percent apply the program to workers' compensation related disabilities. As well, only 51% of the employers responded that their long term disability insurer plays a significant role in returning employees back to work.

"Companies have to look at their current situation and determine whether they have asked enough questions - or are they still lacking necessary information. Why is the employee absent? Is the absent employee getting the right treatment? Who determines when the employee is ready to return to work? It's the better way to keep track of absences", according to Guest.

While absences, both occupational and non-occupational, are an area of increasing concern to most employers in the survey, "oddly enough these are not issues that employees tend to think about. The average employee will be more concerned with their drug or dental programs rather than with the issue of disability", says Guest.

The survey results are divided into four general categories: information/analysis, roles/responsibilities, return to work programs/early intervention and communication/training. Absence management practices covered in the survey range from short term disability and long term disability to workers' compensation benefits for both short and long term work related issues.

Other survey findings:

  • while 88 percent of the respondents have a system for tracking absences only 31 percent have conducted studies of the causes of lost time from work;
  • 59 percent have a rehabilitation program for short term disabilities and of those only 23 percent involve their long term disability plan insurer;
  • 55 percent use the human resources staff in dealing with both occupational and non-occupational disabilities;
  • 62 percent use the same return to work programs for all disabilities.

Certain survey participants have recognized that good management of the disability plan is key to reducing benefit costs. Natalie Wallace, Director of Disability at the Bank of Montreal says that "our program focuses on early intervention. By staying in touch with our disabled employees and keeping them informed, we can respond to their needs and ensure that the path to return to work is always clear", notes Wallace.

"There is a need for improvement in all areas, whether that be disability information or early intervention. The trick is to recognize the problem and solve it in its earliest stages", notes Guest.

For further information: Mike Guest, Principal of Benefits, Morneau Sobeco Coopers & Lybrand, (416) 445-2700; Julie Bannerjea, Media Relations Coordinator, Ernst & Young, (416) 943-2228.

08:51 Eastern 06-Dec., 1995 -- Canada News Wire


Dr. Eric Rumack
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Bus: 647-822-2896 | Email: doctor@rumack.ca