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Pacific Gas & Electric Co. plans to implement a program to coordinate all of its time-off policies, including vacation, sick leave, workers compensation and short- and long-term disability, said Bryon Bass, its San Francisco-based director of integrated disability management in workforce health.
“We're just now moving toward a total absence management philosophy at PG&E,” Mr. Bass said. “You can call it a total absence management approach, but we look at it more as a total health and productivity approach because we're looking at it in multiple dimensions.”
The goal, Mr. Bass said, is to collect comprehensive data about the absence behavior and health status of employees, identify what drives employee absences and attempt to “change the overall absence landscape.”
That information can shed light on an “employee's ability to be productive and available for work, which then also translates to the overall safety of that individual within that organization.”
For about three years, the investor-owned utility has stored employee data — including claims and costs associated with workers comp and disability as well as annual health screening biometrics — in an integrated data warehouse, which combines data from different sources to create a big-picture view of absence across the company, Mr. Bass said.
Questions the data helps answer about employees and dependents include “how they're utilizing the health care system, how absent they are, how many workers comp claims we have in a certain area — the list goes on,” Mr. Bass said.
For example, increased work-related injuries might result from increased overtime since “fatigued people are going to have injuries,” he said.
PG&E relies on partnerships with vendors to manage a portion of the “absence management process ... because we've found that we couldn't do it as effectively as an outside provider could,” Mr. Bass said.
Integrating data from multiple providers allows PG&E to examine it “holistically instead of looking at it piece by piece by piece, because you never get a full picture unless you have a full, rich environment of data,” Mr. Bass said. “We're trying to get more predictive about things” to understand the key drivers of absences, he said. “And if we start to see upticks in certain areas, we need to raise the white flag and say, "Wait a minute. We're going to start having some unintended consequences ... so let's figure out how we can solve for that,'” he said.
Once its total absence management system is in place, it will be easier for PG&E to determine the variables or risk factors about which to educate employees and “put programs in place to help target those specific things that (employees) are struggling with,” Mr. Bass said.
In the wake of a federal court ruling that telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disability Act, experts say employers should evaluate their work-from-home policies to determine how to handle disabled workers' requests.