Facing The Stigma Around Workers' Compensation | CBCC News
Accidents happen. Anywhere. At any time.
Not all accidents lead to permanent performance deficits. Not all accidents are a write-off. Yes, some accidents are more serious than others, and in preparation for those accidents, we buy insurance. When the need arises, claiming our insurance helps give us a bit more peace of mind during a potentially stressful time. Insurance gives us time to get the problem fixed, including accidents at work. Workers’ compensation is compulsory for all employers to support the recovery of any injured workers, which can ease everyone’s burdens.
If that’s the case, why is there still judgement and stigma around claiming insurance for accidents at work by workers?
Workers think that making a claim will have negative impacts on their current employment and future employment. Some workers don’t claim because of reduced income.
Some employers think that workers who make a claim are at higher risk of getting injured again, causing them to make more claims. Some employers may think that hiring a worker who may be out of work often due to illness or injury can lead to imbalances within their team as other employees will have to cover the workload of the absent worker.
The CBCC looks into the reasons why workers may not claim workers’ compensation, why it is important to encourage workers to make claims when accidents do happen, and how to begin removing these stigmas in your workplace.
Why Are Workers Hesitant To Make Claims, and Why Is It Important to Encourage Them To Do So?
In Australia and many other places around the world, there are legal protections in place that aim to prevent discrimination based on workers’ compensation history or history. Despite this, there is still stigma surrounding worker’s compensation, preventing ill or injured workers from claiming compensation that they are entitled to and potentially impacting their recovery and ability to work.
In fact, ABS data indicated that in 2021-2022, over 323,000 workers who experienced a work-related injury didn’t apply for workers’ compensation. Out of those, more than 25,000 of those workers because they thought that it would negatively impact their current or future employment.
But why is that?
Perceived Reliability and Productivity
Some employers may be concerned that individuals who have previously claimed workers’ compensation could be more likely to experience accidents or health-related issues. This could affect their ability to work reliably and productively.
However, encouraging workers to make a claim provides injured employees with the financial assistance, medical care, and rehabilitation services they need to recover and regain their health. By giving them the time and resources to make a proper recovery, workplaces can prevent causing compound injuries or triggering old injuries in their employees.
From a hiring manager or employer’s perspective, hiring someone who has claimed workers’ compensation before could be seen as a potential financial risk. They could be concerned about having to accommodate any ongoing needs the employee has to work well. They may need to hire and train a new employee to cover the workload of the absent worker before their return, which may lead to future decisions on whether they keep the newer employee or not once the injured worker returns to work.
From a worker’s perspective, claiming workers’ compensation means a reduction in pay, which could greatly impact their financial circumstances.
Despite these financial risks, employers have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure the safety and health of their employees. When accidents occur, it’s important to acknowledge the incident and provide the necessary support. Encouraging claims helps fulfil this responsibility and shows that the company takes safety seriously.
Impact on Team Morale
Some employers might worry about affecting their team’s morale if they hire someone with a history of workers’ compensation claims. If the new hire needs accommodations or experiences health-related absences, current team members could become concerned about having to pick up additional duties to compensate for the new hire.
However, encouraging claims can demonstrates that the company cares about its employees’ well-being and is committed to supporting them during difficult times, which can conversely boost your team’s morale as they know that their workplace has their back.
Workplace Safety Concerns
Every employer has a duty to ensure that their workplace is a safe environment. People who have been injured before at work may be seen as more accident-prone by prospective employers, which could raise concerns about their ability to follow safety protocols and contribute to a safe working environment. There could also be concerns about the risk of re-injury or making existing health issues worse, which could prevent employers from hiring someone with a history of work-related injuries or illnesses.
By encouraging workers to make claims, investigating workplace accidents as part of the claims process can help identify root causes and contributing factors to their accident. Addressing these issues means that employers can implement corrective measures to prevent similar accidents from happening again. Encouraging claims will help foster a culture of accountability and continuous improvement in workplace safety.
As we explored before, stigmas and biases arise from a lack of understanding. Employers who haven’t had a chance to find out the circumstances that led to the workers’ compensation claim, or find out their prospective employee’s current health status, may have subconsciously become biased against them.
There could also be societal attitudes towards disability, injury, and work-related health issues that contribute to the stigma. If there’s a prevailing belief that such issues are indicative of a lack of work ethic or personal responsibility, this can result in discrimination against those who have experienced workplace injuries.
“Workers’ compensation provides an important safety net to support people who become ill or injured because of work. It provides financial support and other assistance so workers can focus on getting back to work safely.”
– Michelle Baxter, Safe Work CEO
Are People Who Have Previously Claimed Workers' Compensation Actually More Likely To Become Injured Again?
One of the biggest reasons stopping people from making a claim is because a lot of people believe that someone who has had a workplace accident are more likely to have future accidents. Although there are many reasons why someone would make a claim, there are some factors that could contribute to a worker having a higher risk of experiencing a workplace injury:
- Some people may have pre-existing health conditions or vulnerabilities that make them more likely to experience workplace injuries or health issues. This could mean a need for accommodations or extra time off work.
- Someone who has experienced a workplace injury may be going through or have gone through a period of recovery and rehabilitation. This could lead them to be more cautious at work, and they may take extra measures to prevent re-injury.
- Depending on how they were injured before, some people might need to avoid certain job tasks and/or roles to prevent re-injury. If the job requirements and the individual’s physical limitations don’t match, the risk of re-injury increases.
- After experiencing a workplace injury, some people might develop psychological reactions such as anxiety, fear, or hyper-awareness of workplace risks. These could influence their behaviour and attitudes, which may increase their likelihood of seeking workers’ compensation again.
- Some workplace environments are more risky or physically demanding than others. People who have been injured at work before may seem more vulnerable in these environments, which may raise concerns about their safety and potential for future injuries.
It’s essential to remember that these factors do not affect someone’s ability to be a good worker. As the old saying goes, you can’t control injuries, but you can control how hard you work to come back.
For a worker to successfully return back to work after illness and injury, employers need to work with their employees with empathy and understanding.
“Injuries made people lose confidence in me, but I never lost confidence in myself.”
– Penny Hardaway, American basketball coach
Removing Stigma Around Workers' Compensation In The Workplace
With all that being said, it’s time we removed the stigma workers feel when claiming for a work-related injury. One of the most important factors contributing to a worker’s recovery and safe return to work is whether they have a supportive and inclusive work environment.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, almost half of all injured workers don’t claim workers’ compensation. However, according to the National Return to Work Survey 2018, workers who weren’t phased about making a claim were 3.1 times more likely to return to work in some capacity.
And isn’t that the whole point?
In June 2021, Griffith University and Safe Work Australia developed several recommendations that will help build supportive, understanding, and empathetic workplaces that will make workers feel confident about making compensation claims.
- Building leadership capability to ensure that your workplace has a strong and supportive leadership network that can maintain both workplace culture and productivity despite having an absent worker.
- Implement formal policies and procedures to reduce stigma and create an inclusive workplace culture.
- Change cultural attitudes towards injured workers to encourage openness and peer support and acceptance should a workplace injury occur.
- Monitor the effectiveness of stigma reduction strategies to continuously foster inclusivity and openness in the workplace.
- Raise awareness of the impact of stigma in the workplace, which will also contribute to reducing any unconscious biases within your workers and your workplace.
Returning to work, especially after an absence due to illness or injury, can be a daunting and stress-ridden experience. Let’s work together to create a business community that is open, accepting, and accommodating for all workers, including those who have made compensation claims before.
Join our conversation today and be part of the change.