Disability management programs pay off: Conference Board

Programs should include health promotion and disability prevention activities

There are solid business benefits to implementing an effective disability management program, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.

A good disability management program can limit the costs and detrimental effects of absenteeism, according to Creating an Effective Workplace Disability Management Program, which was sponsored by Morneau Shepell.

To be successful, the program should include health promotion and disability prevention activities in addition to strategies for helping employees return to work.

“Organizations have traditionally focused on solutions that include monitoring information to determine when an employee should return to work, and tracking costs,” said Paula Allen, Morneau Shepell's vice-president of research and integrative solutions. “These are important things to do, but they're passive and not enough. Organizations have a clear opportunity to implement programs that better support an employee's return to work sooner, and address the reasons behind absence at an organizational level.”

“Based on Morneau Shepell's direct experience with its clients, cost reductions of 15 per cent to 40 per cent are clearly achievable,” said Allen. “And both employees and supervisors are better supported in dealing with the challenge of work absence and disability. It makes so much sense to be strategic and not passive.”

The direct cost of absenteeism averaged 2.4 per cent of gross annual payroll in 2012, the report estimated. That works out to a cost of $16.6 billion — a number that doesn’t include indirect costs such as replacement costs for absent workers, administrative expenses or negative effects on other workers or customers.

“Absence and disability is an issue that impacts almost every employer,” said Jean-Marc Mackenzie, Morneau Shepell's senior vice-president of health management. “(What’s) important to remember is that a fully effective strategy requires both prevention and professional disability management, as well as the expertise to drive change.”

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