Investing In Disability Management
With 12,500 employees across Canada, Purolator Courier Limited is one of the nation’s largest employers. The company deals with four unions, but the Teamsters represents the majority of the unionized employees. Human capital is recognized as a vital company asset, so Purolator has made a commitment to the health and well-being of its employees and implemented a healthy workplace initiative and an integrated disability management strategy.
In 2000, with major increases in workers’ compensation costs throughout the country, Purolator decided to address the issue by focusing on occupational injuries and illnesses.
The company started by looking at statistics and costs, and recognized that there was an opportunity to not only reduce the number of lost days, but also reduce costs and help employees get proper treatment to get well sooner. It decided to implement a disability management strategy.
One of the first steps Purolator took was to base the strategy on a set of guiding principles. They included early and effective communication and intervention and the use of objective medical evidence.
“We wanted to develop a standards-based approach, particularly in dealing with the medical and rehabilitation professionals, so that it eliminated some of the subjective evaluations that were being done,” says Doug Kube, director, environment, health, safety, and security.
The next step was to take the standards and implement a process. This included hiring nurses, staffing up the occupational health department with worker’s compensation specialists, and developing procedures, forms, and training.
“Over the past five years we’ve spent a lot of time meeting with our doctors, compensation boards, insurers, and short- and long-term disability partners to standardize our processes and forms,” says Kube.
In 2003, Purolator gained the support of its biggest union, the Teamsters. “We sat at the negotiation table and talked to them about it. We realized they were very well educated on this issue and they understood, as we did, that getting the proper treatment early and bringing employees back to a social support network in the workplace was not only good for the business, it was good for the employees.”
The Teamsters offered suggestions and advice that was in line with how Purolator thought they should manage the return-towork process. And, because the union brought the issue to the bargaining table, employees were more supportive of the solutions that were agreed to. In turn, the transition went well.
Kube points out some of the key factors behind the success of the roll-out were establishing a documented process of how claims and cases are managed, educating and training managers and the human resource department, and specifically letting everyone know the cost of lost days (which was $850 to $1,400 per day for an occupational related claim and $100 to $200 for a non-occupational related claim).
On the management side, the company tied return-to-work success to the operations scorecard, which is used in calculating managers’ bonuses. “It’s based on a measure of how well they did at returning employees to work. It was a huge driver in reinforcing the right behaviours and decisions that were needed to reduce the total disability period.”
The company is currently working on applying the same concepts to the shortterm disability side. “We haven’t established the same level of rigor for STD as we have on the workers’ compensation side. That has to do with the fact workers’ compensation costs were much higher than STD. However, in 2006 we are taking our integrated disability management program to the next level.”
In addition to the disability management program, Purolator implemented a healthy workplace initiative. The program, started in 2003, is based on the National Quality Institute program.
“The healthy workplace definition includes the physical work environment, cultural or psychological aspects of the workplace, and wellness of the individual. The program helped us identify risks such as physiological health, stress, shiftwork, fatigue, physical activity, and nutrition. This has enabled us to target resources and programs to address these issues.”
Overall, the programs are starting to see results.
“We were recently notified that we will receive a reduction in our 2006 workers’ compensation premium costs in Ontario of three per cent, which is unheard of considering virtually every other rate group’s premiums will increase.” The company will also see reductions in Nova Scotia and Alberta.
“You have to show a three-year history of improvement before you actually get a reduction. We’re right on the cusp of three years of excellent performance. We are now starting to see the fruits of our labour.”
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