How Early Intervention Services Help Manage Absence

How Early Intervention Services Help Manage Absence
How Early Intervention Services Help Manage Absence

Paul Avis

Paul Avis

Marketing Director

Does the importance of early intervention and effective rehabilitation during absence supersede the financial benefits that Group Income Protection (GIP) provides? There is a growing school of thought that the support insurers provide is becoming more important than ever to customers. GIP provides a level of salary continuation when an employee is absent because of ill health or disability.

Early involvement in absence to maximise rehabilitation support is sensible and prudent. Although GIP benefits become payable during long-term disability, the payment only starts after the employee has been unable to work for a set period. Employers fund Statutory Sick Pay, and many fund Occupational Sick Pay. Proactively managing sickness absence through early engagement using an Early Intervention Service (EIS) makes perfect sense from an organisational financial perspective.

GIP providers are well placed to support the early investigation of absence, helping employers and employees at the crucial early stages of absence. This helps Equality Act (2010) compliance and enhances a disability diverse workforce. Not engaging while waiting for a GIP claim to be submitted also negatively affects premiums, as the longer an absence is, the harder it is to make an effective, sustainable return. Letting an employee go can cost up to £30,000 in recruitment and training costs and so the financial business case for employee retention clearly underpins a need for EIS. Modelling return on investment using EIS supports the introduction of new GIP schemes to the market.

The aim of EIS is to manage employee absence as early as possible and find the best outcome for all involved. Most insurers provide access to trained medical professionals, usually nurses, and some even give money back for early notification. Access can be via a simple telephone call, referral forms or GIP claims forms and building these into regular HR and manager practices encourages a consistent approach and outcome.

The EIS Nurse can work with the employee, medical specialist and their employer to facilitate a successful return. Where possible, the aim should be to create an achievable return to work plan endorsed by the employee’s GP and any relevant specialists or consultants, and provide support for all parties throughout the process. This can be a lifeline for individuals struggling to cope and takes a (sometimes emotional) burden off the line manager while reducing sick pay costs.

The EIS service should be tailored to suit the needs of the employer and each absent employee is treated as an individual, so the support offered is right for their situation. Not only do EIS Nurses support return to work plans, they can also offer support and guidance to employers in terms of advice on absence duration, recommended workplace adaptations and other benefits the employee could utilise.

There are many varieties of EIS from insurers which range from day one, week four or week eight of any absence. Canada Life’s EIS focuses on the fact that every absence can have a huge impact on the workplace and recognises the importance of supporting employees as early as possible. Hence we use a day one intervention service, which for clinical/objective absences (such as heart attack, cancer and strokes) means we can signpost people to support such as Second Medical Opinion services. It is here that the immediate support service benefits can be accessed most beneficially.

EIS is best used for complex/subjective claims where there is little pathology though (such as back pain, mental health, repetitive strain and chronic fatigue syndrome). This is an area where many line managers struggle as stress, anxiety and depression is not only “invisible” but people managers also often worry about exacerbating the condition if they try to manage it. Work-related stress is particularly emotive and, by using EIS, the aim is to help the manager and employee resolve the absence or confirm it is a workplace issue rather than a health issue, and hence not a GIP claim.

We believe that EIS works. While the industry paid 15,322 claims in 2017, this could have increased to at least 18,311 without EIS. However, the 2,989 cases represent only 0.12% of all insured employees. For a day one absence service, or even eight week one, the message is not getting across to organisations.

In 2017, having contributed around a quarter of the industry cases, 77% of early intervention referrals returned to work in just seven weeks on average. Bearing in mind that 90% of EIS referrals did not result in a claim for various reasons, the financial benefits of sustainable, appropriate premiums is as attractive as the sick pay arguments.

Choosing a quality GIP insurer can save an organisation money by reducing sick pay and recruitment costs, ensure GIP premiums represent their actual claims experience in an EIS environment, help comply with the Equality Act and become a more disability diverse organisation.

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