A recent survey from the Disability Management Employer Coalition found that 32% of employers expect to see an increase in the incidence of absence and disability management claims as a direct result of Affordable Care Act implementation.

This stat intrigued us here at The Standard because it shows that one of the unintended consequences of the ACA could be a decrease in workplace productivity due to employee absence and disability. The reason being, according to DMEC, is that absences would increase due to longer wait times for access to care and disability claims, while less certain, may increase because “employees no longer fear a loss of health care coverage from a long-term absence,” the study says.

But, are most employers — your clients — aware of this potential trend? An increase in employee disability leaves could leave employers vulnerable, because decreased productivity can translate to decreased profitability.

Recently, The Standard conducted a survey of 200 HR managers to see how they handle employee absence and disability in their workforce. From that survey, we identified three top insights that you can share with your clients the next time you discuss ways they can best manage employee absence and disability.

  1. Reinforce the benefits that come with disability insurance providers. In our poll, only 34% of employers said they worked with their disability carrier to find accommodations when an employee was dealing with a disabling condition. In addition, 60% said their way to handle an employee absence is to reallocate other employees. Not only will the latter solution overwork a client’s existing employee population, it could potentially lead to increases in absence and disability among the employees who must compensate.

Make your clients’ benefits work for them. This includes reminding them that their disability carrier can help them, too. Disability carriers offer tools and programs to help manage an employee’s condition before it results in a short- or long-term disability leave. Solutions can include ergonomic assistance and workstation modifications, or identifying a temporary job reassignment.

  1. Promote existing resources. Another way to help clients is to remind them that they also have other benefits that can work in tandem with their disability carrier. In our survey, 42% of those polled regularly connected at-risk employees with programs aimed at helping their employees stay well — such as an employee assistance, disease management or wellness programs.
  1. Create a formal system to manage absence. Employee absences happen. However, of those polled in our survey, 62% of employers said they have no formal system in place to reallocate resources during an employee absence. There are helpful solutions. Some carriers have resources in the form of consultants who can help your clients get a handle on their processes. Outsourcing absence management services can help here, too.

Asking clients about these matters can help them improve their disability and absence management processes before bigger problems arise, and demonstrate that you, as their adviser, can see beyond the ACA into the realm of workplace productivity.

About Michael Klachefsky

Michael represents The Standard as spokesperson and thought leader regarding absence management, the Workplace Possibilities program, workplace productivity and the cost of absence. He speaks at conferences, publishes articles and papers on these topics. Michael conducts numerous broker and consultant training events, and consults with brokers and employers on the cost benefits of managing absence and disability.

Michael is active in the Disability Management Employer Coalition, represents The Standard on the research committee of the Integrated Benefits Institute, and is a member of the Willis Clinical Advisory Board. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in Detroit.

About The Standard

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of Portland, Oregon. in all states except New York, where insurance products are offered by The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York of White Plains, New York. Product features and availability vary by state and company, and are solely the responsibility of each subsidiary. Each company is solely responsible for its own financial condition. Standard Insurance Company is licensed to solicit insurance business in all states except New York. The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York is licensed to solicit insurance business in only the state of New York.

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