Many years ago whilst in self-insurance land, one of my colleagues asked the question “Rozanne, why am I labelled a claimant on everything – it seems a bit rude?” In the years since, I’ve reflected on this question and found myself adjusting the ‘labels’ I use in my consulting life and advice to clients.
Why? Two things come to mind…
- I ask the client what they call their people? Are they staff, employees or team members?
The term claimant or injured worker is a common and appropriate term used by regulatory bodies so there’s no issue there. But when I look at an organisations policies and procedures around HR / ER / Welfare / Wellbeing the disconnect between these policies and those related to workplace injury and RTWA’s is often something I notice.
For the Injury Management professionals out there we all know the challenges of trying to get a difficult or disenfranchised person back to work. Is it possible that receiving a RTWA from their employer calling them a non-descript term or external label could create a perception of further “separateness” from the organisation and likely to compound the challenges?
If they have internal resources for RTW or Injury Management Support, I also encourage those individuals to move away from those regulatory descriptors when referring to what is effectively a colleague within their own business. I have worked with a lot of NFP’s and interestingly I’ve often found that conversations around this issue has resulted in a few “Aha” moments.
Look, I’m as big a fan of acronyms (and a good label) as the next person and use IW in all my notes – I just try not to use that term unless I’m talking to the Insurer or Agent. So the advice I give my clients is that whatever “label” you have for your employees when they’re in good health (and not injured), maintain the same language in your internal documentation following an injury or claim.
2. For companies I work with who have internal RTW or IM resources, I encourage them to think about re-labelling this role (if possible) if it sounds anything like WorkCover / Workers Comp claims officer / Coordinator etc.
The reason for this is quite simple – WorkCover or it’s jurisdictional reference is simply the legislative framework that steps out the entitlement and benefit structure for receiving compensation on lodgement of a claim.
For anyone occupying this employer-based in house role your KPI sits in (should sit in) the early intervention space. Now I’m going to make a very BIG generalisation here but in my travels I have found that a large proportion of organisations that that fit this very generalised description also had a tendency to develop their workplace based IM model around scheme milestones with a very transactional approach.
If you’re in Victoria you have a critical 10 day window that can make or break a claim in terms of whether it’s lodged with your Agent as a standard LTI or MEO claim and of course the distinct cost / SCE implications between the 2.
The focus has to be on supporting your employee to resume full and gainful employment in a safe and sustainable manner and preferably having systems in place to ensure that they have access to high quality medical and allied health services as quickly as possible to assist recovery.
So what’s the cliff notes?
Labels have the power to shape perception – both positively and negatively. Labels have the power to transform or diminish, be polarising or inclusive. Are you the employer of an “injured worker” or are you the employer of team member who is recovering from injury – the distinction is subtle but notable.
So the question for you is “Does your internal “lingo” accurately mirror your organisations values and ethos around welfare and wellbeing? If it doesn’t then consider the benefits of changing them so your talk and your walk are in step.
Senior Account Manager