Clients are always keeping an eye on the cost of employee benefits. With the national conversation about healthcare in constant flux, decisions about how to choose the best benefits for employees while combating escalating health costs are more important than ever.

In considering the right benefits options for your clients, disability insurance may not stand out as a benefits game changer for organizations. However, disability insurance plans can proactively support an employee who is experiencing a medical condition in the workplace — even before the employee needs to take a disability leave. In turn, it can help reduce employee healthcare costs and improve employee productivity in a safe manner. This can be especially helpful for clients that may have an employee attempting to work through a medical condition, a situation known as presenteeism.

Presenteeism is the practice of an employee coming to work while experiencing a medical condition, which often can result in reduced productivity. This could be any type of medical condition: physical injuries (such as musculoskeletal conditions or arthritis), behavioral health conditions (such as depression or anxiety disorders) or chronic illnesses (such as allergies or diabetes). All of these can contribute to the effects of presenteeism.


A recent Global Corporate Challenge study on presenteeism revealed that employees working through health conditions cost businesses the equivalent of three months per year in lost productivity. An important aspect clients may not realize about presenteeism is that if an employee’s medical condition isn’t identified or treated proactively, it could worsen and lead to a continued loss of productivity or a disability leave. With clients’ increased focus on the cost of employee health overall, it’s important to understand how presenteeism could be influencing their workforce and how to help employees who may be affected.

Offering a proactive disability program to support clients’ employees
Encourage clients to partner with a disability carrier that can help create a cohesive approach for identifying and supporting an employee working through a health condition. Here are three things clients should keep in mind when considering how a proactive disability management program can best meet the needs of their workforce:

1) Consider their disability carrier’s approach. Some disability carriers have robust stay-at-work programs that can do most of the legwork to identify and find ways to support an employee who could benefit from workplace accommodations. Many carriers even have consultants who can be accessed any time a client has a question or, depending on the client’s needs, can work onsite and integrate directly within the HR department. The vocational experts can help take work off a manager or HR department’s plate by finding and sourcing accommodations, and checking back to ensure that the modifications made are helping the employee long-term.

2) Provide accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a health condition. If an employer doesn’t provide reasonable accommodations, it could be faced with fines or legal action for not appropriately supporting an employee.

Accommodations can be physical in nature, such as a standing desk or ergonomic mouse, but also can include schedule modifications, temporary job duties or the flexibility to attend doctors’ appointments. Accommodations or modifications should always be tailored to each employee’s role, work environment and medical condition.

3) Work in tandem with other vendors. Often, the best support for an employee can be provided by another benefits vendor a client already works with, such as a disease management, wellness or employee assistance program. Disability carrier consultants can learn what options are available to employees, and make sure clients are leveraging the resources from services they’re already offering.

Creating a disability management program that provides proactive support can help reduce clients’ employee health care costs, and help keep employees healthy and productive at work. This way of thinking can truly be a win-win for all.

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