IWH disability benchmarking partnership helps workplaces improve outcomes, reduce costs

The Institute for Work and Health offers Workplace Disability Benchmarking — a research-based partnership that allows large employers and disability benefit trusts to measure, track and compare disability outcomes and identify program improvements that will protect employee health and the bottom line.

Following a successful pilot completed in 2008, Workplace Disability Benchmarking (WDB) is now actively recruiting employers and disability benefit trusts to take part in this made-in-Canada initiative. WDB reflects the ongoing commitment of the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) to develop practical workplace tools based on solid research evidence.

One of IWH’s research goals is to provide independent evidence on effective return-to-work and disability management practices that reduce both the incidence and duration of disability, thus improving workers’ lives and reducing employers’ disability costs, says IWH Scientific Director Dr. Ben Amick, the research lead on WDB. WDB promises to help employers implement best practices that reduce the burden of disability and improve productivity.

How disability benchmarking works

WDB is a partnership between IWH and participating Canadian organizations interested in getting a clearer picture of their disability management performance. Backed by IWH’s research expertise, WDB allows participants to:

  • learn how well their disability management program is doing compared to similar organizations in their sector;
  • track how their program is doing internally, year over year;
  • determine those program areas that might benefit most from improvements; and
  • determine what impact changes to disability management practices are having on employee health outcomes, disability costs and worker satisfaction.

WDB does this by measuring and tracking three areas of organizational disability management practice:

  • outcomes with respect to short-term disability (STD), long-term disability (LTD), workers’ compensation, casual absences, and emergency leave/compassionate care leave;
  • employee and supervisor satisfaction with the disability management process; and
  • disability plan design and processes.

It is really very linear, says WDB Partner Liaison Bev Lever, who joined IWH in January to support participating employers and disability benefit trust funds. Benchmarking disability management identifies opportunities to improve policies and practices that result in greater satisfaction for both workers and the employer. This, in turn, has a positive impact on the program’s bottom line, which brings greater shareholder value. It just makes good business sense.

Current participants already see benefits

WDB is currently benchmarking in three sectors — with financial service firms, research-based pharmaceutical companies and public service benefit trusts. Organizations already taking part in WDB see its benefits. I was sold on this idea from the outset, says Charles Bruce, CEO of the Nova Scotia Public Service Long Term Disability Plan Trust Fund. By establishing a baseline, future decision-making will be supported by scientific evidence. WDB will advance our approach to disability management.

Adam Marsella, manager of talent management at GlaxoSmithKline Canada, concurs. WDB has been an excellent tool for helping us better understand our performance in disability management, he says What’s more, I have confidence in the integrity and accuracy of the data because they’re backed by IWH expertise.

Bill Wilkerson, head of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health, thinks all organizations should be looking for ways to improve disability management practices, especially now. Investments in disability management by businesses are really investments in an increasingly valued resource — skilled and experienced people, he says. This is particularly true at a time when businesses must defend their competitive position in the face of enormous financial pressures.

WDB offers a home-grown advantage. It’s Canadian-made, says Lever. WDB measurements and outcomes are based upon Canadian systems, legislation and processes. WDB is also run on a cost-recovery basis, which is reflected in its fees.

For more information about the initiative and how to participate, visit the new WDB webpages at: www.iwh.on.ca/wdb.

Source: At Work, Issue 56, Spring 2009: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto