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Inclusion strategies can play a key role in workers comp


As a former workers compensation claims adjuster, the No. 1 question Elise White was asked by employers was: Why is this claim not moving along like another one we had before?

“Why is this person not getting better? Why is this one not closing?” said Ms. White, who is now a project leader for Zurich North America, based in Smyrna, Georgia, and presented Monday at Riskworld, the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in Atlanta.

“I believe that that's the foundation of a lot of work we need to do, because, really, it's the people component (that’s missing). People are complex, people are different,” she said during a session on diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging as the “missing links” in workers comp.

Such issues can affect worker well-being and recovery from injuries, and paying attention to a worker’s unique needs goes a long way in ensuring a claim progresses, Ms. White said.

Co-presenter Daniel Maxson, corporate safety director for New South Construction in Atlanta, said that too often employers and the insurance industry treat injured workers “as a file,” not taking into account such factors as race, social roles, citizenship status, language barriers and religion that can affect recovery and lead to employee isolation.  
“(This) can get missed a lot of times when you approach a claim,” he said.

An existing focus on inclusion can pay dividends in the event a worker is injured, Mr. Maxson said.

“Inclusion is actually the most important thing in building an environment where a worker will want to work on the job site no matter,” he said. “You can walk on a job site and feel the tension, 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, Ms. White said.

Applying such changes can help build the trust that keeps workers comp claims from moving toward litigation, which can hamper return to work, Mr. Maxson said.