As a former workers’ compensation adjuster, the first question Elise White was asked by employers was: Why isn’t this claim going like another one we had before?
“Why doesn’t this person get better? Why doesn’t this person shut down?” said Ms. White, who is now project manager for Zurich North America, based in Smyrna, Georgia, and presented Monday at Riskworld, the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in Atlanta.
“I think that’s the foundation of a lot of work that we need to do, because it’s really the people component (that’s missing). People are complex, people are different,” she said during a session on diversity, inclusion, justice and belonging that they “missed the links̵7; in worker competence.
Such issues can affect workers’ well-being and recovery from injuries, and paying attention to a worker’s unique needs goes a long way toward ensuring that a claim moves forward, White said.
Co-presenter Daniel Maxson, director of corporate safety for New South Construction in Atlanta, said employers and the insurance industry too often treat injured workers “like a file,” without considering factors such as race, social roles, citizenship status, language barriers and religion that can affect recovery and lead to employee isolation.
“(This) can be missed a lot of times when you’re approaching a requirement,” he said.
An existing focus on inclusion can pay dividends in the event a worker is injured, Mr. Maxson.
“Inclusion is actually the most important thing in building an environment where a worker wants to work in the workplace regardless,” he said. “You can walk into a workplace and feel the excitement, or you can feel the appreciation.”
Employee resource groups, “safe spaces” where workers can discuss issues that affect them, leadership engagement, mentoring programs, community investment and training against unconscious bias are some elements of creating a culture of inclusion, White said.
Enacting such changes can help build the trust that prevents workers’ claims from turning to litigation, which can impede return to work, Maxson said.