Benefits duration limits are not the best tool to quickly and safely return employees to work
SAN FRANCISCO (Vocus) June 1, 2010 -- In this tough economic climate employers have a strong interest in limiting unnecessary time that an employee may be out of work for a short-term disability (STD). To better understand how to help employers reduce lost work time, wage replacements and lost productivity, the non-profit Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) analyzed data from its 2008 benchmarking program on durations of STD claims and plan design for over 470,000 claims and released the findings and employer recommendations today.
A common method adopted by employers to manage potentially long-duration STD cases is to use an STD plan design that limits the maximum duration of paid benefits – a strategy that may have potential downsides. The analysis found that even for STD plan designs with eligibility periods as short as 13 weeks, most claims resolve well before benefits expire, and claims with different maximum durations had very similar median lost work days. These results suggest that the duration of benefits eligibility does not contribute greatly to the timing of an employee's termination of benefits.
“Providing effective case management is the real issue employers should consider to promote successful return to work,” said Thomas Parry, PhD, IBI president. “Employers should work to prevent absences from becoming short-term disabilities and manage cases for successful return-to-work outcomes when they do become disabled. Such a total absence management approach includes implementing nurse case management and encouraging transitional employment. For employers with highly trained employees, this could be an especially valuable solution.”
By terminating benefits before full recovery from an illness or injury, an employee's return to pre-disability performance levels may be delayed. A premature forced return to work could unnecessarily extend a period of presenteeism (under performance at work due to lingering illness or injury).
In addition, absent employees may not return to work at all because they either file a long-term disability claim, opt to seek employment elsewhere after recovery or join the unemployment rolls, putting further strain on public funds and, for many, instilling a disability mindset from which recovery may be difficult.
About the Integrated Benefits Institute
The Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) provides employers and their supplier partners with resources for demonstrating the business value of health. As a pioneer, leader and nonprofit supplier of health and productivity research, measurement and benchmarking, IBI is a trusted source for benefits performance analysis, practical solutions, and forums for information and education. IBI’s programs, resources and expert networks advance understanding about the link between – and the impact of – health-related productivity on corporate America’s bottom line. For additional information visit: ibiweb.org.
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