Employee support | The secret to proactive absence management

The secret to proactive absence management

By Darren Michel, Manager Claims and Medical underwriting at Generali UK Employee Benefits

It’s generally a given that work is good for us. But, right now, as working from home and furloughing continue, there are countless demands on both our time and patience.

All of this could ensure that the problem of employee absence grows and becomes more prolonged with people not getting the help they need, when they need it. Here, we take a look at how you can change that.

Managing long-term absence is tricky enough but, in the midst of the pandemic, it is made harder still, where communication with employees and access to support can be challenging.

It’s times like this when empathetic and emotional support from qualified nurses could prove a godsend. Nurses tasked with the simple remit to help employees get better, by providing a helping hand - in the early days of an absence, not when it has become ingrained – and throughout the recovery journey. Nurses that will ensure that a thorough and proper diagnosis is achieved early on, and who will design a personalised and integrated recovery journey, making much more effective use along the way of an employer’s existing wellbeing and insurance benefits and services and, if they have it, Occupational Health (OH) - as well as public health services.

Generali UK has worked with MorganAsh to bring to the UK an entirely new service that does just that, in turn bringing to employers productivity benefits, not to mention financial savings.

And considering that 9 out of 10 employers want to engage employees with benefits – but only 43% have a strategy – it should be welcomed by many.1

Why your ‘return-to-work’ might not be working

The range of return-to-work support services is vast. And while potentially valuable, it’s often the case that this value isn’t necessarily realised. Why? Because absence is complicated.

An employee might take time off for a physical problem and then go on to develop a psychological problem, or vice versa, in the process. They might not have received an accurate, professional diagnosis and are now stuck in an inflexible one-way medical system, that struggles to re-direct patients to a more appropriate service. The initial problem might even have been work related, not health related; something that, through lack of proper identification and communication, has gone unresolved and now manifested itself in a physical issue.

From dropping-off to data protection

Current workplace benefits and services, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) all play their part but the employee, often through self-diagnosis - or inaccurate professional diagnosis - might end up not accessing the most appropriate service for their need; not accessing services at all; or dropping off an illness-recovery journey for various reasons. Also, they might require more than one service, but there’s nothing linking the two so progress stalls or is even prevented.

These problems are illustrated in the flow chart at the end of this article.

What’s more, data protection has ensured that most legal and compliance departments don’t encourage the kind of information sharing required for integration of providers and services to be effective. This only serves to slow down the care pathway.

Isn’t all of this OH’s job?

OH practitioners are heavily involved in the upfront prevention/risk assessment stage and, at the back-end, they will put together return to work plans. However, the latter might happen well down the road of an absence, when an income protection insurance claim has already kicked in, and when various hurdles have already been experienced by the individual along the way; hurdles that end up making the process - and their recovery and absence - much more protracted than it should be.

The beauty of a proactive helping hand

What’s needed is proactive intervention at a much earlier stage, by someone who can understand fitness for work, who can provide confidential support to employees, helping them ensure the right diagnosis and the most effective support, directing attention to relevant existing benefits and services available via group income protection or private medical insurance – including OH and the EAP if relevant – or the NHS, charities or self-help groups where appropriate.

MorganAsh has designed such a service; a service that is dedicated to return to work, and that isn’t shy of saying where a change to the workplace or working conditions is required to help achieve that goal.

And because the service helps ensure the recovery journey is more effective and efficient, it can also translate into reduced insurance premiums. For all these reasons, Generali is adding MorganAsh – with whom it already has a long-held relationship – to its list of Wellbeing Investment Matching partners. Via this initiative, Generali will help a client fund a service, from accredited third parties, where a need is identified.

Overcoming the GDPR barrier

MorganAsh has put in place a sophisticated system, behind the scenes, so that the nurse-run service is simple and seamless, allowing for the sharing of data and speeding up the recovery journey. This involves ensuring appropriate consent is obtained if any data is shared with other parties. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the service is confidential to the employee; data is only shared with employee consent.

Recordings of phone conversations are retained for each case. And copies of evidence of consent are shared with other parties. Furthermore, there are no handwritten notes – all notes and reports are digital and retained within secure systems. Should an individual require copies of their data or request their data to be deleted, this is easily completed.

Measuring success

The service includes reporting on both inputs and outputs. From the number of employees who have returned to work and the proportion who have changed the diagnosis and treatment path, to the types of conditions, by department or organisational units.

The results, from MorganAsh’s work with a partner in Ireland, speak for themselves.

For employees:

  • 95% reduced stress and anxiety.

  • 26% speeded up recovery.

  • 85% returned to work.

  • 70% returned to work faster.

For employers:

  • Utilise existing contracts.

  • Reduce employment disputes.

  • Reduce group income protection premiums by up to 15%.

Find out more about Generali

1 - Aon, UK Benefits & Trends 2020 Survey, https://www.aon.com/unitedkingdom/media-room/articles/survey-employers-focus-on-wellbeing.jsp

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Generali UK Employee Benefits

Generali UK provides Group Life Assurance, Group Income Protection - plus added-value wellbeing services - to the UK employees of multinational clients. Generali UK is also pioneering Wellbeing Investment Matching, helping clients fund discrete, tailored wellbeing initiatives where a need has been identified.

Access to a range of multinational pooling and captive solutions is available via: Generali Employee Benefits Network (GEB), and a range of non-life coverages is available via Generali Global Corporate & Commercial.