By Alexandra Leone and Heather Garbers

It’s not unusual for employers to grapple with the issue of workers cycling between short-term disability and workers’ compensation. 

Everyone pays when this happens: Extended leaves under either short-term disability and workers’ compensation systems can leave employees unmotivated and depressed. And the employer pays in lost productivity, among other costs.  

One solution is for better integration between these two programs designed to keep workers engaged in the workplace after injuries. But before we even get to that, smarter hiring practices can help protect against potential misuse of the system.    

Two basic premises should help guide your hiring practices. 

First is that a happy and healthy employee is more productive and is key to creating a positive, and high performing culture. That leads to the top goal of bringing in the right kinds of people, those who have the values and judgment to fit in and support the system that’s been put in place to support them. 

Second, employers have complete control over whom they hire. The challenge is to create a benefits program that attracts and retains the kind of employee who will add positively to the organization’s growth and success. Moreover, it should also provide the right voluntary benefits like accident, short term disability and hospital indemnity insurance that not only provide financial protection to employees, but can also help minimize the misuse of workers’ comp insurance.

With those premises as the basis, here are some suggestions that can help make your hiring practices more effective:

  • Have a job analysis/description for every single position. You’d be surprised how spottily this is practiced. There is a difference, by the way, between a job description and what employees actually do. It’s typical for most people to wear many different hats. Those different tasks have to be clearly spelled out. Because if the essential functions of the job aren’t specified, how can a sound decision be made on whether the candidate can or can’t do it? 
  • Pre-employment physicals and drug testing are important. These should be performed after an offer of employment has been made but before the candidate starts. Both provide a medical baseline for conditions that could be subject to reasonable accommodation. Say a construction company makes an offer to an individual who has applied for a driver’s job, but the physical reveals he’s blind in one eye. Or the drug test shows that a prospective machine operator uses medical marijuana. There are legal ramifications if the tests are administered before a job has been offered. Likewise, there are legal ramifications if the tests aren’t administered. 
  • Evaluate the skills-based tests you are administering. These are fine as far as they go – helping the engineering firm, for example, ascertain that the candidate can do calculus. But they rarely give the whole picture, like how willing and able the prospect would be (or not) to learning or trying something new. Some people don’t test well, and outside factors may influence how they do.It’s best to utilize several types of tests to get a more complete assessment.
  • Consider judgment capacity testing. This is more telling than skills or personality tests in that results aren’t gauged by outside factors. This testing reveals the candidate’s values with regard to work, ability to make decisions under stress and how she thinks about the world. It’s a good way to better gauge how the candidate will fit in your culture.

Most employees don’t set out to take advantage of your benefits system. They will, however, try to maximize their benefits with short-term disability and workers’ compensation, especially when they do not have any other options. That’s only human. But by exercising due caution, building benefits that truly support employees when they aren’t at work and utilizing the right screens in your hiring practices, you’ll stave off potential problems and end up with a better workforce overall. 

Your HUB consultant can help you identify the best tools for your purposes, and also help you create integrated programs to stop the cycling between short-term disability and workers compensation.