Workers’ compensation has come under the public eye in a very negative way. Yet, there really are success stories and other vignettes where workers’ compensation did work, where people did recover and were provided all that the law allows and more. So how does the industry put its best foot forward? This session at WCI’s 2016 Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference examined how the industry can show the positive face of workers’ compensation.
- Melissa A. Dunn, Vice President and Managing Director, Helmsman Management Services
- Rebecca Shafer, President, AMAXX Risk Solutions, Inc.
- Michael Grabell, Journalist, ProPublica
- Richard Victor, Senior Fellow, Sedgwick Institute
Workers’ compensation has come under fire in many ways lately, including:
- Michael Grabell’s ProPublica series highlighting the great disparity in benefits between states.
- OSHA’s report summarizing various studies about inequities in workers’ compensation and how benefits have been decimated, let alone failed to keep up with inflation.
- Other national media stories about inequities suffered by injured workers published by the Los Angeles Times, Texas Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Times and others.
There are many factors contributing to the negative perception of workers’ compensation. One problem is that employers do not fully understand the system and their role within it. This is a misperception. Employers fail to look into the mirror to see they might be understaffed or are focusing on cost control rather than employee care. Instead they blame their failed program on the third-party vendors administering it for them. Employers do not realize the power they have to impact the perception of workers’ compensation.
Employers can help by taking an advocacy-based approach. This requires appropriate staffing along with proactive education and communication. Employers should also share their program successes with their employee base.
In relation to the media, the general public only sees news stories on the large losses related to catastrophes, rather than the more-common cases handled daily. Other than that, the only other media related to workers’ compensation are negative ads from law firms telling the public not to trust the system. This has a large impact on perception.
We are also lacking proof of the positives related to workers’ compensation. There seems to be a lot of information to prove when the system fails, but we are lacking data around success stories or when things go as they should. Why aren’t we collecting and sharing this type of information?
Overall, the industry needs to communicate its improvements and outcomes and, currently, no one is telling that story. We have to get those stories out if we want to change the perception of the industry. This could come in the form of an ad campaign from the carrier. On the other hand, word of mouth could potentially have the largest impact, however, those stories have to come from the appreciative workers that had a positive outcome.