Working to recover

Returning to work after an injury or illness can be a major health benefit for many employees. But are we doing enough to support these employees. 

Speeding up the road to recovery

A person’s job can be an important part of who they are. So it’s no surprise that there are many benefits of working, including social inclusion, a feeling of contributing to society and family, a familiar routine, as well as financial security1.

Studies both here and overseas2 also show that re-entering the workforce improves general health and wellbeing; such as better self-esteem, self-satisfaction, self-rated health, as well as mental and physical health.

However, for the 25,000 Australians who don’t return to work after sick leave each year, the long-term health problems may be just starting, according to the Medical Journal of Australia. As well as the original health condition that took them out of work, a person who is off work for significant periods can become isolated and depressed, experience family disruption, loss of self-esteem, lower quality of life and become unemployable in the long term3.

Counting the cost of illness and injury

As employers, we invest heavily in time and resources to be an employer of choice, in order to attract and retain the best talent.

But when illness or injury strikes and an employee is forced to take sick leave for an extended period of time, it’s easy to start counting the costs – not only to employers, but also the broader economy.

In 2013, Australia’s insurers paid out a record $5 billion, or $20 million each working day, to people claiming for injury or illness; an amount 14% higher than the previous year4, and if trends persist, this is a figure which will continue to rise.

Lost productivity figures alone are enough to raise concern to employers and economists alike. In Victoria, workplace injury and illness caused 189,000 years of lost working time in the 14 years from 1995 to 20085

While indirect costs can be harder to measure, they can add up for employers. This includes lost potential output, loss of current and future earnings, the impact on team morale and any associated productivity loss, as well as the cost of providing social welfare programs for workers6.

Changing the trend, one step at a time

When faced with the prolonged absence of a sick employee, and the web of associated legal obligations, employers are often indecisive or scared into making hasty decisions7.

So it’s not surprising to see that our national return-to-work rates have not improved for the past 15 years, according to SafeWork Australia8.

Changing the trend requires a unified approach – from the employee, the employer and the insurer. As one of Australia’s leading insurance companies, we are committed to paying genuine claims. But we also know there’s a lot more we can be doing. 

Our ultimate aim is to help customers own their tomorrow. That means helping remove the barriers that often prevent people from resuming an active, productive life after illness or injury – which can be a win-win for your employees and your business.

How the AMP team is helping customers get back to work 

With this in mind, we are transforming our approach to claims—making it customer-centred and focused on helping customers return to an active, fulfilling life.

We are enhancing their claims experience so that we are helping them sooner and more proactively. This means in many cases they are able to recover faster. 

Core to this is a tailored approach delivered by a team of trained case managers and recovery specialists. The recovery specialists all have health backgrounds and work hand in hand with the case manager to identify customers who would benefit from a recovery program and support them to get back to activity as soon as possible. 

In 2014 this new approach saw us help 1800 people return to work, which is more than 50% of all claims finalised and an increase on the year before. Feedback from our customers tells us we are working in the right direction.

Frank’s story

Frank was a busy 53 year old senior banker when he suffered a stroke. After leaving hospital without a support plan in place, he attempted to go straight back to work. However, dizziness, fatigue and headaches ultimately saw Frank needing to stop his work. Although these symptoms are common after a stroke, Frank was quite anxious and concerned about the threat of a further stroke.

Frank went to his adviser Craig for help, who in turn called AMP and got Frank connected with a dedicated case manager and recovery specialist. 

The recovery specialist – Harriett personally met with Frank to develop a tailored recovery plan including advice on workplace modifications and making ergonomic adjustments, changing his pace of work, providing advice on diet, exercise and sleep hygiene to manage post-stroke fatigue.

In the past, rehabilitation options would have been considered only after a claim was submitted. By this stage, customers like Frank, may have experimented with their own options rather than have the professional support we are now able to offer.

With AMP’s intervention, Frank was able to gradually go back to work and did not need to submit a claim to his employer. Frank is now back to a full, busy and rewarding career and life.



The top five reasons for claims

Musculoskeletal
(back, knees, shoulders)

Cancer

Cardiac
(heart attacks and disease)

Mental illness

Accidents

 

For more information on AMP can help your employees return to work faster speak to your AMP representative.

Australasian Faculty of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Work, 2011.

Is work good for your health and well-being?, Gordon Waddell & A Kim Burton, 2006.

3 Reducing the impact of unemployment on health: revisiting the agenda for primary health care, Elizabeth Harris and Mark F Harris, 2009.

The Risk Store, Industry Stats 2013. 

5 What’s behind our failure to return more injured people to work? Alex Collie, Monash University, 2013.

6 Australasian Faculty of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Work, 2011.

Prolonged sick leave "triggers" OHS obligations: Case study, HR Daily, 15 April 2010.

8 What’s behind our failure to return more injured people to work? Alex Collie, Monash University, 2013.

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