Broker Check

Plan B for Workers Compensation

July 29, 2020
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A proposal for restructuring workers compensation has been posted on LinkedIn by James Ellis, a self-described "student of humanizing injury recovery support, workers compensation & well-being". His ideas are similar to those advocated by other commentators on how to make the system more worker friendly and less adversarial.

Ellis' "humanized" model focuses on return to work, facilitated by a guide rather than a manager. Instead of a prepared plan, the support guide would meet with and listen to the injured worker. Rather than acting as an expert, the guide would give advice only when asked. Build a relationship through genuine interest and curiosity. Find creative ways to help workers recovery.

Safety professionals should re-frame the gap between plan and actuality as a learning opportunity. Compassion and curiosity will alleviate misunderstandings.

Here is Ellis' view of how the new model will affect stakeholders:

For the worker, meetings to build trust will replace assessments. Active listening will replace telling the worker what to do. Involvement with family members will be encouraged. Support will be provided for treatment and work options.

In the workplace, return to work plans are replaced with collaborative learning. Doctors are encouraged to specify a range of restrictions and encourage experiment. Emphasize psychological safety; encourage workers and supervisors to speak up. Coach supervisors to use recovery to enhance relationships. Have ongoing conversations about the difference between expectation and actuality.

Medical treatment should be a true partnership  between doctors and patients. Workers should take part in decision making. They must be able to trust the interaction between recovery guides and medical professionals. Treating professionals should stay engaged with workers between visits.

Insurers must have relationships with injured workers. Replace paperwork with conversation. Minimize dehumanizing language or jargon in claim handling and correspondence. Minimize controlling behavior. Facilitate face to face (or virtual) meetings with workers.

This approach will require a change in mindset to be successful. If it can be realized it will make the process less confrontational.